Graddy, Sory lift Hornets to tourney title
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 — Sophomore Cody Graddy’s two-out, two-run pinch-hit double in the bottom of the fifth inning snapped a 4-4 tie and junior reliever Chris Sory worked out of jams in the sixth and seventh as the Bryant Hornets downed the Pulaski Academy Bruins 7-4 to capture the championship of the Sheridan Invitational Tournament Thursday, March 9, at Oliver Williams Field.
Pulaski Academy had just pushed across the tying run in the top of the fifth. Michael McClellan led off Bryant’s fifth with a walk, ending the mound work of Bruins’ ace Jay Sawatski, one of the premier pitchers in the state.
Reliever Derek Owens struck out Matt Brown then got Beau Hamblen to ground to short. But shortstop Chad Farneth threw wildly to second trying to get a force on pinch-runner Kevin Littleton, who advanced to third.
Hamblen advanced to second on a short wild pitch as Littleton held at third but Owens struck out Zack Dickson.
With two down, the Hornets were in danger of leaving the go-ahead runs in scoring position. With shortstop Tad Beene, just out from basketball, due up, head coach Terry Harper called on Graddy who slammed a 1-1 pitch off the fence in left-center, just missing a three-run homer.
Still, both runs scored to put the Hornets ahead.
It was the first varsity hit for Graddy.
Beene returned to run for Graddy and he scored when Matt White followed with a single to left.
Bryant starter (and winner) Anthony Rose (3-0) opened the sixth on the mound but was greeted by a single from Isaac Smith. Rose fanned Thomas Thrash but then issued a four-pitch walk to pinch-hitter Michael Arrington.
With the potential tying run at the plate, Sory relieved. He got Jimmy Tanner to fly to right then struck out Farneth to end the threat.
In the top of the seventh, Sory retired the first two with the help of a fine play on a Blake Pizan bunt by catcher Drew Lawson. He then issued a walk to Owens. Brad Kelley singled to right to give the Bruins some hope but Sory got Smith to ground into a force at second to end the game.
The Hornets out-hit the Bruins 11-7 with White, Dustin Morris, Rose and Brown getting two hits apiece.
Bryant scored in each of the first five innings. In the first, Morris singled with two down then swiped second and scored on a double by Rose.
In the second, consecutive singles by McClellan, Brown and Hamblen produced a run. The Hornets loaded the bases with a walk to White but left them juiced.
Pulaski Academy responded by breaking through against Rose to take the lead. An infield hit by Tanner to lead off the third was the first hit Rose surrendered. Tanner swiped second then scored when Pizan drove a single up the middle just out of the reach of Beene at short.
Sawatski walked then Owens doubled home Pizan to make it a 2-2 game.
With the infield in, Kelley bounced back to Rose who caught courtesy runner Caleb Critz off third for the second out. But Owens stole third and, with Smith at the plate, the Bruins worked a double steal with Kelley drawing a throw to second as Owens raced home to give them the lead.
Rose fanned Smith to end the inning and, in the home-half, the Hornets tied it back up. Morris led off with a double then Rose beat out an infield hit. Morris, who took third on the play, scored moments later on a grounder to second by McClellan.
After Rose worked a 1-2-3 fourth, the Hornets reclaimed the lead. A two-out bunt single by White triggered the rally. With Brandon Nichols at the plate, White was picked off first but took off for second and slid in safely, beating the relay from the Bruins’ first baseman.
Nichols then reached base on a third-strike wild pitch. White went to third and Nichols hustled all the way to second. A passed ball with Morris at the plate allowed White to score the go-ahead tally.
Pulaski Academy came back, however, in the top of the fifth. Farneth singled but Rose picked him off first. Pizan then drilled one to the gap in right-center that the speedy White tracked down in splendid fashion.
But a walk to Sawatski and a long double by Owens tied the game.
The win improved the Hornets to 6-2 this season heading into the Benton Invitational Tournament.