Rundown turns Hornets fortunes
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
If defense and pitching win championships as many say, then the Bryant Hornets still have some work to do before the AAAAA-South Conference season begins. Of course, they’ve still got time. And, if Tuesday’s game against the White Hall Bulldogs is any indication, they have the potential.
After committing five errors through five innings, the Hornets, who haven’t had an error-free game yet this season, executed a rundown so well that it resulted in what may have been a game-turning double play.
After getting out of the jam, the Hornets rallied for five runs in the bottom of the sixth to pull out an 11-7 victory and improve to 6-4 on the season going into their game against Sylvan Hills on Thursday, March 15.
The contest was tied at 6 going into the sixth. Bryant’s tough-luck starter Kevin Littleton issued a lead-off walk to White Hall’s Jace Carter. Jason Self followed with a lined single to right.
Littleton, who had only allowed three earned runs to that point, had nonetheless thrown a lot of pitches and was pulled by head coach Terry Harper.
Lefty Cody Dreher relieved but was greeted by an RBI double off the bat of Bulldogs clean-up man Chris Ashcraft.
With runners at second and third, the Hornets trailed by a run with no one out in the inning. Dreher was able to get Chris Goldman to ground sharply to Scott Yant at third. Yant, who was playing in to cut off the run if possible, did just that by running at the baserunner, making him freeze then commit to home or back to third and, when he did the former, firing to catcher Cody Graddy. Adam Boone, a pinch-runner for Self, was caught in a rundown. Ashcraft, meanwhile, ran to third. Graddy ran Boone back to the third base bag, figuring to get a runner out when they both occupied the same base.
But when Boone got to the bag, Ashcraft started back to second. Graddy alertly tagged Boone out as he hopped off the base, realizing what Ashcraft was doing and the base could be his again. But Boone reacted too late. Graddy tagged him out then started after Ashcraft, who really had no place to go since Goldman had taken second.
Graddy threw to second baseman Dustin Morris, who tagged Ashcraft out for an unusual double play highlighted by the Hornets execution of the rundown play.
Dreher retired the next batter and the Hornets came to the plate only trailing by one instead of a larger hole that, before the rundown, seemed inevitable.
Derrick Chambers walked to start the bottom of the inning. Chris Sory, on as a pinch-hitter, set down a nice sacrifice bunt to get the runner to second.
But Matt Millikin, the second of White Hall’s pitchers, continued to struggle with the strike zone. He issued walks to Matt White and Luke Brown to load the bases with one out.
White Hall then turned to lefty David Clark as Morris came to the plate. On Clark’s first pitch, Morris lashed an RBI single to right to tie the game.
Matt Brown singled to bring in the tiebreaker. Cody Graddy grounded into a force out as Luke Brown scored. After Brad Chism, running for Graddy, swiped second, Brandon Nichols capped the uprising with a two-run single to right-center.
Dreher worked around a hit batter and a bloop single in the top of the seventh and nailed the down the victory, his first as a varsity pitcher for the Hornets.
Morris, Matt Brown and Graddy — the middle of the Hornets’ lineup — each had three hits in the game. Brown and Graddy drove home three apiece and Morris had two RBIs. Nichols also drove in three.
The Hornets, who had defeated White Hall 8-4 earlier this season, jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first. White walked, swiped second, reached third on a single by Morris and scored on Matt Brown’s double. Graddy singled in Morris then Matt Brown scored on a sacrifice fly by Nichols.
But White Hall tied it in the third. With one out, J.D. Gore punched the Bulldogs’ first hit through the left side. An error extended the inning and runs scored on Matt Morgan’s single, Jace Carter’s ground out and a base hit by Ashcraft.
Morgan went 4-for-5 for the Bulldogs. Ashcraft, Clint Jackson and Jock Carter each had two hits.
After his first-inning struggles, White Hall starter Brandon Mynheir shut out the Hornets until the fifth. In the meantime, his teammates claimed the lead. In the fourth, Jackson whacked a lead-off double and advanced on a groundout. Singles by Jock Carter and Morgan brought Jackson around with the tie-breaking tally.
A single by Jace Carter loaded the bases but Littleton got Self to ground to third. Yant made a good play to his right to field the ball which hugged the ground. But, with his momentum carrying him towards the baseline, Yant’s throw home, in hopes of a force out, hit the baserunner who scored to make it 5-3.
White Hall scored again in the fifth and would’ve had more than one run except for a base-running blunder. With one out Jackson singled to right and moved on to second when the hit was misplayed in the outfield. With two down, Jock Carter slapped a single to left-center to drive in the run.
Morgan followed with a shot into the gap in left-center for what appeared to be an RBI double. But Carter was ruled to have missed third on his trek home and was called out to end the inning.
Trailing 6-3, the Hornets rallied to tie it in the bottom of the inning. A one-out error allowed Luke Brown to reach second. Morris singled him home. A misplayed pickoff attempt allowed Morris to reach second and he scored from there on a single up the middle by Matt Brown.
And when Brown’s hit was botched in center, he wound up at second. Graddy then doubled him home to make it 6-6.
That set up the tell-tale sixth.