King pitches Hornets into tourney final
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
SHERIDAN — Brawny right-hander Chance King has always been able to bring the heat. There was a time, he couldn’t be sure quite where his pitches were going but he they’d always get there in a hurry.
And it was all heat, wall-to-wall flame from King back when.
Things have changed, however. Oh, sure, he can still bring it but King has worked to develop a change-up and a slider that, when its all working, makes him extra tough to handle.
On Tuesday, in the semifinals of the Sheridan Invitational Tournament, King may have been as good as he’s been — so far — as he struck out eight in five innings without a walk and shut out the Sylvan Hills Bears on just four hits in a 9-0 win.
The Hornets improved to 8-1 on the season with the victory and advanced to the championship game — their third final in as many tournaments this season — against the Conway Wampus Cats on Wednesday, March 6.
Brent Mason managed two singles and Cody Duncan two more, including one that didn’t get out of the infield, and that was it for the Bears who had one runner picked off first by catcher Cody Graddy, another thrown out stealing by Graddy, and a third gunned down trying to advance to second on an errant throw by King that wound up in center field.
Graddy, as it turned out, gave his battery mate the only run he’d need when he smashed his second home run in as many games and third of the season with two out in the bottom of the first.
But, for good measure, the Hornets erupted for eight runs in the third to run-rule the Bears. Seven of the nine starters in the Bryant batting order hit safely led by Clay Jones with two singles.
Jones and first baseman Derek Chambers each swiped bases in the game, bringing Bryant’s total for the season to a whopping 37 in nine games.
King gave up a single just beyond the reach of shortstop Scott Yant to Mason to lead off the game. Elijah Peters sacrificed him to second then King hit Seth Weinberg with a pitch.
But, with clean-up man Grant Huddleston at the plate, Graddy whipped a throw to Chambers at first and caught Weinberg snoozing for the second out of the inning.
King then fanned Huddleston, the first of four K’s in succession.
Sylvan Hills threatened again in the third when Duncan led off with a single. But Graddy threw him out trying to steal.
After King fanned Chad Taylor, Mason singled again. This time, he swiped second and raced all the way to third when the pitch was in the dirt. But King got Peters to bounce to Jeff Carpenter at third to preserve the shutout.
Bryant’s big inning began with walks to Yant and Matt White. Carpenter, attempting to sacrifice, got a base hit on his bunt that hugged the first-base line. With the bases loaded and one out, Chambers came through with a two-run single to right.
A walk to A.J. Nixon jammed the bags again. This time, Jones came through with a lined single to right to plate a pair.
Mason, the Sylvan Hills starting pitcher, gave way to Cody Dillon who was greeted by Kevin Littleton with a liner up the middle for an RBI single and a 6-0 lead.
With two down, Yant drove a double to left-center then White ripped a liner to right-center that he hustled into a two-bagger to cap the inning.
In the top of the fourth, Huddleston reached on an error but King got Justin Franco to hit one back to the box.
With one out, King went to second in hopes of starting an inning-ending twin-killing but the throw was behind Yant who was covering and it skipped into center.
With Huddleston heading for third, White, the center fielder, hustled in and fired to third. It was too late, but Carpenter relayed the throw to second where Franco had headed after a fatal hesitation. Franco was tagged out and, with Huddleston at third, King got Kent Taylor looking to retire the side.
In the fifth, King fanned two as he worked around an infield hit by Duncan to close out the win.