Sawyer, Hornets come through in clutch at Cabot
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CABOT — With his average hovering around the .500 mark all season and a 12-game hitting streak in his pocket, senior Joey Winiecki was the perfect batter to be coming to the plate for the Bryant Hornets. The game with the Cabot Panthers at Conrade Memorial Field on Thursday, March 22, was tied 2-2 in the top of the seventh and the Hornets had loaded the bases with one out. Cabot had gone to the bullpen and brought in ace starter Justin Haas, a lefty, to face Winiecki and the next batter Tyler Sawyer, who both swing from the left side.
Haas wound up getting the better of the match-up with the Hornets’ hot-hitting senior, much to Winiecki’s frustration, but often the key to success in baseball is having players who pick up their teammates in clutch situations.
Sawyer did just that, rifling a liner beyond the center fielder, clearing the bases with a double and lifting the Hornets to a key 5-2 win over the Panthers and pulling into a tie with them for second place in the 7A-Central Conference heading into spring break.
“Very big win,” acknowledged Bryant head coach Terry Harper. “Cabot’s up and coming. They were 3-1 and had played probably the tough end of their schedule. To get a win tonight is huge.
“Joey comes up and I’d take him up there 100 times in that situation,” he added. “That’s one of those things that happens. Tyler’s been swinging the bat pretty well so we moved him up in the order a little bit and it worked out good for us.”
The Hornets and Panthers are both 3-2 in the league, trailing only unbeaten Conway. Bryant takes a 9-5 overall record into the break. Cabot fell to 13-6.
“We played as a team,” Harper stated. “We didn’t hit the ball quite like we’ve been hitting but they stayed focus for seven innings, the defense was pretty good and the pitching was there.”
And it was Sawyer, again, who came up big in that regard. Lefty Trent Daniel pitched the first four innings effectively, giving up just two runs, one earned, on three hits. Sawyer came in and pitched out of jams in the fifth and sixth then retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh to seal the victory, his first varsity decision.
“Trent did a good job until his arm started getting a little sore,” noted Harper. “Tyler came in and did a heck of a job then had the huge hit at the end of the game.”
The game-winning rally began with a one-out single into the hole by Jake Jackson. Jordan Knight followed with a shot into left to extend his hitting streak to 10 games. It was the second hit of the game for each of them. And when Cody Walker drew a free pass, the bases were full. Cabot was forced to make a pitching change from starter Colin Fuller to Haas, a three-year star, who pitched a shutout just two days before against Little Rock Central. Winiecki battled before missing on a 2-2 pitch. Haas then went 2-0 to Sawyer and had to serve up a fastball that the Bryant sophomore mashed.
The Hornets had taken the lead in the third when Jackson laced a double past third and Knight drilled a triple to dead center, scoring moments later on a groundout by Walker.
It stayed 2-0 until the bottom of the fourth when a walk and a misplayed single to right put runners at second and third for Cabot, with one down. With Sawyer playing in at third, Cabot’s Justin Free was able to get a grounder between him and the line for a two-run single.
Pinch-runner Wesley Sowell was thrown out trying to advance on a ball in the dirt by Bryant catcher Tyler Pickett. Shayne Burgon walked but Daniel struck out Daryl Murphy to end the inning.
The Hornets had an opportunity to snap the tie in the top of the fifth when Knight drew a one-out walk and Walker was hit by a pitch. Winiecki hit a drive to left that Logan Lucas ran down. Apparently, Walker lost track of how many outs there were and was running on contact. He wound up out three different ways. First, he passed Knight on the bases, then he failed to re-tag second after he had rounded the bag and headed back toward first and, finally, the relay back to the infield beat him back to first.
Sawyer, taking the mound in the fifth, was greeted by Corey Wade who doubled to left-center. A bloop single by Fuller put runners at the corners with no one out. But Sawyer found his stride and struck out the next two batters. Clean-up hitter Sam Bates walked to load the bases but Sawyer struck out Lucas to get out of the jam.
In the top of the sixth, Sawyer lashed a liner to left that appeared destined for the fence. Lucas only had one chance to field it and took a head-long dive. He got his glove on the ball and it briefly popped out but it was ruled he held on for the out despite Harper’s contention that the ball hit the ground.
That proved fortuitous for the Panthers when, an out later, Alex Kehrees whistled a single up the middle.
In the home sixth, Sawyer again found himself in a jam when Free singled and, an out later, Trey Rosel beat out an infield hit. But Wade struck out and Fuller popped to Jackson, who made a nice over-the-shoulder catch in shallow left to end the threat and setting the stage for Bryant’s decisive uprising in the seventh.
The Hornets don’t return to action until Monday, April 2, at Benton for a non-conference contest. They host North Little Rock the next night in a return to league play.