Hornets win pitchers’ duel with Star City

Photos by Kevin Nagle

Aaron Orender hauls down a fly to right in the fifth inning of Monday's game. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Aaron Orender hauls down a fly to right in the fifth inning of Monday’s game. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

When Star City clean-up batter Austin Capps — all 6-4, 305-pounds of him — stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the seventh inning, the 2-1 edge that the Bryant Hornets’ junior varsity held on the Bulldogs looked, well — endangered.

Capps, a junior who’s verbally committed as a defensive tackle to the University of Arkansas football team, smacked Austin Kelly’s first pitch. It was a tracer. But it went right back to Kelly, who snared it and fired to third to double off Hunter Logan for a dramatic end to the game at Bryant High School Field Monday night.

The game was put together at the last minute by Bryant head coach Kirk Bock and Star City coach Scott Johnson and Bryant’s varsity and JV games scheduled for Monday against Watson Chapel were called off because Chapel had to make up a conference game that had been postponed by all the inclement weather of late.

Since his junior varsity hadn’t been able to play much this season, Bock sent them out to play with three players that often start in the lineup: sophomore Jake East at short, sophomore designated hitter Garrett Misenheimer at first, and sophomore second baseman Dylan Hurt on the mound.

It turned into a good game with Hurt dueling with Star City right-hander Garry Hill.

Star City threatened in the first when Blake Wynn singled to center and was sacrificed to second by Hill. Austin Powell followed with a grounder to East at short. He caught Wynn making a bid to advance and threw him out at third with Nick Kehrees applying the tag.

With Powell at first, Capps pulled a single into left. But Hurt fanned Tye Brown to end the inning.

Jake East (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Jake East (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

East then opened up the bottom of the inning with a triple to the gap in right-center. With one out, Misenheimer picked up the RBI with a grounder to short.

Star City tied the game in the fourth. Capps reached on an error and Brown drilled a double to right. The Bulldogs tried to squeeze in Capps with a bunt by Cole Muckelroy but Hurt bounced off the mound and got a throw to catcher Jordan Gentry in time for the tag.

With Brown at third, however, Cody Hall got a squeeze bunt down and, though Hurt got to it and threw home, it wasn’t in time to catch Brown.

Hurt retired the next two including Logan on a pop between the Bryant dugout and the on-deck circle that Kehrees made a nice play on. It was the second gem by Kehrees.

In the home fourth, Logan Allen drew a one-out walk and raced home from first on a long double to left-center by Kelly, who had doubled to right in the second.

Kelly had a rough day on the bases, however. In the second, he tagged to go to third on a long fly to center off the bat of Seth Tucker only to be called out on appeal for leaving the bag too soon. After his second double, he tried to steal third and appeared to beat the throw but his slide came up short of the bag and he was tagged out.

Logan Allen crosses the plate with what proved to be the winning run. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Logan Allen crosses the plate with what proved to be the winning run. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

But Kelly wound up with a three-inning save on the mound, relieving Hurt in the fifth. He was helped out by a nice play by Tucker at second and a nifty scoop at first by Weston Jones to start the fifth.

He retired the side in order in the inning then started the sixth with a strikeout of Capps on four pitches. He followed that up, however, with a walk to Brown and a single by Muckelroy. He fanned Cody Hall but then issued a free pass to Jacob Cowson.

With pinch-hitter Hunter Haley at the plate, Kelly picked off Cowson at first on a fake-to-third, throw-to-first move. Jones was able to get the tag on Cowson before Brown could reach the plate.

The Hornets had made some noise in the bottom of the fifth when Gentry singled to center and Kehrees beat out a bunt for a hit. But East’s bunt popped up and was caught by Hill, who doubled off courtesy runner Joey Cates at second. Hurt then lined to third to end the inning.

In the home sixth, Wynn relieved for the Bulldogs and eased through a 1-2-3 frame, which had his team fired up for a comeback in the top of the seventh.

Logan, who re-entered in left after Haley had pinch-hit for him, drove a long fly to center. After a long run, Allen got a glove on it but couldn’t haul it in. Logan wound up at second.

Garrett Misenheimer fields a ball at first. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Garrett Misenheimer fields a ball at first. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Wynn tapped back to Kelly who held Logan at second as Wynn reached on the fielder’s choice. Hill sacrificed the runners to second and third for Powell.

In order to set up a force at any base and in hopes of a double-play ball from the slow-footed Capps, Bock ordered that Powell be intentionally walked to load the bases. Capps cracked the first pitch back at Kelly to start the game-ending play.

The Bryant JV may play another game today against the Arkadelphia varsity. The Hornets’ varsity is set to open the 7A/6A-Central Conference season at home against Siloam Springs on Friday. It will be a league double-header.

Austin Kelly delivers a pitch to catcher Dylan Hurt. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Austin Kelly delivers a pitch to catcher Dylan Hurt. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

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