Hornets finish as runners-up of Benton tournament
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
BENTON — Saturday, March 3, was not the best day of the 2007 Bryant Hornets’ young season.
Bryant came into the day 3-1, their lone loss by 1-0 against the White Hall Bulldogs and their three wins all by shutout including a 5-0 win over Sheridan to open the Benton Invitational Tournament and a 10-0 win over Hot Springs Lakeside that put them in the championship game against the rival Benton Panthers.
That came Saturday and the Panthers denied the Hornets the tournament title just a few hours after Bryant had opened play in the Sheridan Invitational Tournament where White Hall handed the Hornets another loss, 7-2, that will keep them from winning that tournament too.
But all of those games are merely steps in the grand design to get the relatively inexperienced Hornets ready for play in the 7A-Central Conference. And they were certainly fruitful in that regard.
Benton, for example, may have the best team in Class 6A this season. The Hornets spotted them 5 runs in the first inning but threatened in every inning after that. They wound up with more hits than the Panthers (12 to 7), despite the fact that Benton’s senior ace Andy Ferguson, a contributor to the Benton pitching staff since his freshman season, and closer Drew Simpson were on the mound. The timing of Benton’s hits, however, was better than Bryant’s. The Hornets wound up stranding 13 baserunners, Benton five.
Speedy senior Joey Winiecki finished with four hits, three of which never got out of the infield. Jake Jackson and Jordan Knight each had two hits.
Bryant starter Tim Bearden, who had pitched effectively in relief this season, took awhile to find his good breaking pitch which may have been affected by the strong crossing wind. The Panthers sat on his fastball and scored the five first inning runs on three extra base hits. Bennett James’ bases-loaded triple was the big blow.
The Hornets stranded one in the first and two in the second before getting on the board in the third. Winiecki beat out his first infield single and, after Jackson walked, swiped third and scored on a base hit by Cody Walker.
But Jackson was caught off second and tagged out and, despite a two-out error, the Hornets couldn’t get anymore, stranding another pair.
A two-run homer by Luke Kordsmeier finished Bearden’s day in the bottom of the third. He was relieved by sophomore Tyler Sawyer who pitched well enough over the next four innings to, perhaps, make himself a candidate for the Hornets’ core of pitchers for conference games.
Bryant trimmed a run off the 7-1 lead in the fourth with the help of three Benton errors. Winiecki’s two-out single drove in Knight with the run. Winiecki advanced to second on an errant pickoff then swiped third only to be stranded.
The Hornets stranded two more in the fifth. In the sixth, Winiecki beat out another infield hit, Jackson singled to right and a pair of errors allowed a run to score. But Simpson got out of the inning with a strikeout, leaving the bags loaded.
In the seventh, hits by Knight, Trent Daniel and Winiecki got a run in. Jackson beat out a slow roller to third but Daniel was caught off third and tagged out to end the game.
Bryant 10, Lakeside 0
Daniel came within a pitch of a five-inning perfect game on Thursday, March 1. He struck out 11 of the 16 batters he faced, including eight of the first 10. With two out in the fourth, Lakeside’s Kendal Norman drove a 1-0 pitch for a double and that turned out not only to be the Rams’ only hit but their own baserunner of the game. Daniel walked no one and only had one three-ball count on a batter.
Bryant, by that time, led 7-0. In the first, Jackson walked and raced home on Walker’s long triple to center. A passed ball allowed Walker to score, making it 2-0.
The Hornets took control in the second when they scored five more. A walk to Knight opened the frame. Alex Kehrees drove him home with a double. Tyler Pickett singled and Daniel walked. An error allowed Kehrees to score to make it 4-0.
Nick Suggs, running for Pickett, was thrown out trying to score on a bouncer to third off Winiecki’s bat but Walker ripped a double to plate Daniel and Winiecki. And when David Guarno’s single to right was misplayed, Walker scored to make it 7-0.
It stayed that way until the top of the fifth when walks to Kehrees and Pickett set the table for Winiecki with two outs. He made it a 10-run game with a shot over the fence in right-center for his first homer of the season.
Bryant 5, Sheridan 0
In the tournament opener, the Hornets got some bad news when senior right-hander Ryan Wilson felt a twinge under his upper arm on the last pitch of the first inning in which he pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam. Kehrees, who was scheduled to relieve late in the game, was called in to pitch the second and proceeded to finish out a seven-hit shutout of the Yellowjackets. In six innings, the lefty scattered six hits, walked just one and fanned five.
The Yellowjackets only got a runner to third once. That came in the sixth when Zach Wilson reached on an error, took second on a balks and tried to score on a two-out single to center by Matt Buie only to have Winiecki charge in and fire a strike to Pickett at the plate in time for the out.
Bryant took a 3-0 lead in the first. Winiecki beat out a bunt for a hit, swiped second and, after Walker reached on an error, both scored on a long triple to right-center by Guarno. Pickett picked up an RBI with a grounder to first.
In the second, Knight singled to left, advanced to second when Sawyer was robbed of a hit on a roller to short then scored when Winiecki’s infield hit to short was kicked into shallow left.
The Hornets tacked on a run in the fourth when Kehrees singled and Knight sacrificed Suggs, the courtesy runner, to second before Winiecki shot a two-out double to the gap in right-center to make it 5-0.
Winiecki had three hits, Guarno and Knight two each in the game.
The Hornets ended the weekend with a 3-3 record. They were set to return to action in the Sheridan Tournament on Tuesday, March 6, at 4:30 p.m., against Pulaski Robinson.
They were set to complete play in the tournament on Wednesday then open 7A-Central Conference play at Little Rock Catholic on Friday, March 9.