Quality win over Conway lifts Bryant into finals
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continue posting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By ROB PATRICK
SHERWOOD — Both the Bryant Hornets and the Conway Wampus Cats were unbeaten on the young season when they met in the semifinals of the Sylvan Hills Invitational Tournament at McReynolds Sports Complex on Monday, March 1. But neither had really been tested like they were about to be.
And, on this test, Bryant scored a 6, Conway a 2.
The Hornets improved to 4-0 on the season and advanced to the finals of the tournament set for Thursday, March 4 — weather permitting — against either Little Rock Central or Sylvan Hills.
The Hornets opened the tournament with a 10-0 win in four innings over the Cabot Panthers on Saturday, Feb. 28.
Justin Wells held Conway to just one hit over the first five innings and, with relief help from Todd Bryan, earned his first win of the season. Bryan picked up his second save.
“Justin threw a lot of strikes and that gave us a chance,” commented Hornets head coach Terry Harper. “The defense played exceptionally well. I think we had one error and that was a pretty good shot.”
That came in the seventh when Conway made a bid to keep the game going. Bryan had relieved in the sixth, trading places with Wells at short, after Conway picked up its second and third hits against Wells, a one-out double by Jordan Moix and a single by Peyton Hillis. Bryan issued a walk to load the bases but he got Chase Blackwell to ground sharply up the middle. Wells, at shortstop, glided to his left, scooped up the ball, touched second and relayed to first for an inning-ending doubleplay.
In the seventh, a one-out single by Matt Hall was followed by a hard grounder that got past Travis Wood at first for the error. Bryan followed with a walk to Grant Garlington to load the bases.
But he fanned Tyler Mattox for the second out before issuing an RBI walk to Moix to make it 6-2. That also brought up Hillis who had not only singled in the previous inning, he’d provided Conway with its first run with a long solo homer in the fourth. But Bryant got him to fly out to end the game.
“We didn’t get a chance to warm Todd up really,” Harper pointed out. “He just had to throw on the side. That’s tough when you’ve got position players pitching. He didn’t have a real good chance to get tuned up and that’s probably my fault but he settled down and got out of two jams.”
Offensively, the Hornets scored single runs in all but the fourth inning. In the first, back-to-back doubles by Wells and Richie Wood got Bryant on the board.
In the second, Travis Wood reached on a third-strike wild pitch then swiped second. Dustin Tinkler bunted him to third. Andrew Moseley followed with a safety squeeze that was placed so well that he got a single out of it along with the RBI.
Dustin Easterly singled Moseley to third and took second on the late throw there, giving the Hornets a chance for a big inning. Bryan followed with a lined shot that Hillis snagged at third. Moseley, going on contact, was doubled off third to end the threat.
But, in the third, Wells walked and courtesy runner Hunter Nugent wound up at third after a pair of wild pitches. He scored from there on a groundout off the bat of Bryan Griffith despite the fact that Conway had the infield in.
“The key to our success on offense was our baserunning, moving people over, bunting,” Harper acknowledged. “I thought all aspects of the game were pretty good. We got doubled up which took us out of a big inning but we hit the ball hard. We got thrown out at third but we’re going to get thrown out sometimes as much as we run.”
That was the only time in seven steal attempts, the Hornets were caught. It came in the seventh after Zach Young had doubled in Griffith who had walked, swiped second and taken third on an errant pickoff throw. Young was going on a 3-2 pitch to Travis Wood, so Conway ended the inning with a strike-em-out, throw-em-out twin-killing.
Hillis’ bomb to lead off the bottom of the fourth had made it 3-1, but Wells was unfazed. He came back to strike out four of the next six hitters he faced, part of a string of seven consecutive he set down before Moix’s double in the sixth.
In the meantime, the Hornets tacked on runs in the fifth and sixth. In the fifth, Bryan reached on an error, advanced on a wild pitch, took third on Wells’ groundout and scored on Richie Wood’s second hit.
In the sixth, Tinkler reached on an error, stole second, was sacrificed to third by Korey Hunter and scored on Easterly’s second single.
In Saturday’s game, Travis Wood continued to dominate on the mound, holding Cabot without a hit in four innings. Wood had pitched three innings of no-hit ball in Bryant’s opener against Lake Hamilton.
This time, he struck out nine and walked five.
Bryant got all the runs it would need in the second. Young walked, Griffith doubled and a wild pitch brought home the first run. Tinkler followed with an RBI single. Hunter got a sacrifice bunt down that wound up sending Tinkler to third when Cabot catcher Kyle Stoner threw wildly to first. Easterly followed suit with a perfect squeeze bunt to plate Tinkler. It too drew a wild throw, putting runners at the corners. Nugent, running for Easterly, swiped second then Bryan walked to load the bases. A passed ball allowed Hunter to score. A wild pitch brought in Nugent and another passed ball allowed Bryan to score.
With the tournament utilizing a 10-run rule after four innings, the game came to an end when Bryant strung together five hits to score four times in the bottom of the fourth. Bryan beat out an infield hit then Wells rocked a triple to right-center. Richie Wood singled him in and, an out later, Young doubled. Wood scored on the play when Cabot botched the relay. Griffith then ended the game by chasing Young home with a single to left.