Hornets blast Rockets for first 7A-Central win
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
LITTLE ROCK — Despite a 15-5 win over the Morrilton Devel Dogs on Thursday, March 8, Bryant Hornets head baseball coach Terry Harper wasn’t too pleased with his team’s focus. He knew it would have to be ratcheted up the next day.
Of course, there’s a big difference between playing Morrilton in the finals of the consolation bracket in a tournament in Sheridan and opening play in the 7A-Central Conference against the Little Rock Catholic Rockets, one of the teams expected to compete for a conference title.
The Hornets, however, continued an offensive barrage. For the third game in a row, they scored in double digits cracking 15 hits including six for extra bases on the way to a 14-7 triumph over the Rockets on a rain-soaked evening at Lamar Porter Field.
The Hornets improved to 6-3 overall with the victory. Catholic fell to 5-3. And it was a much-needed game for the Rockets who had already dropped a conference tilt to Conway.
The Hornets had to erase a four-run deficit to get it done. The key blow in the turnaround was a three-run jack by Jake Jackson that tied the game at four during what turned into a six-run fourth.
“We got down four runs and the guys didn’t have much of a lull, they stayed with it,” Harper acknowledged. “The way we expect them to play. (Starting pitcher) Trent (Daniel) didn’t have his best stuff but did well enough, kept us around and gave us a chance. People fed off each other. They played together, played the game the way it’s supposed to be played, never quit, never gave up, kept battling. That’s what we’ve been talking about.
“This is the hitting I expected to see from this team,” he added. “We hit just about every inning.”
“I consider (Catholic) one of the top two or three teams in our conference and if they truly are, I like our chances,” Harper concluded.
Cody Walker and Tyler Sawyer each had three hits in the game and three runs batted in apiece. Jackson, Joey Winiecki and David Guarno added two hits each. Jackson drove in three with his homer, Winiecki and Guarno knocked in two apiece.
Daniel struggled with his control early and three first-inning walks got him into a one-out jam. Matt Chwalinski, who had four hits and four RBIs for the Rockets, doubled home two but Daniel got out of the inning, stranding runners at second and third.
In the second, Joseph Gardner singled but was forced at second on a grounder by Michael Marsh. Jordan Getchal then rifled a double to left-center to send Marsh to third. He scored from there on a grounder to short by Chris Driedric. Daniel struck out Mike Rugger, however, to strand Getchal at third.
In the fourth, Chwalinski’s one-out single was misplayed in left and Mark Thompson followed with an RBI hit, taking second on the throw to the plate. It was a close play there with catcher Tyler Pickett appearing to tag courtesy runner Tyler Campbell just before his foot came down on the plate but he was ruled safe.
With two down, Gardner singled up the middle but Winiecki charged in and threw out the lead runner at the plate to end the inning and give the Hornets an emotional lift that may have sparked the fourth-inning rally.
The Hornets had been shackled by Thompson over the first three innings after leaving the bases loaded in the first. In the fourth, however, Alex Kehrees shot a liner to left to get the offense revved up. Pickett sacrificed Kehrees to second then Guarno was hit by a pitch. Daniel bounced into a force at second as Kehrees took third.
Sawyer, a sophomore who stung the ball all night, shot an RBI single up the middle to get the Hornets on the board and setting the table for Jackson. On a 1-1 pitch, the junior infielder cracked his first varsity homer to left center to tie the game.
And when Jordan Knight drew a walk, Thompson was pulled in favor of Kennan Doan. But Walker greeted the new hurler with a double to left that chased Knight home with the go-ahead run. Winiecki lined a double to left to make it 6-4. Even the final out was hit hard as Kehrees lined to second.
Daniel worked around a walk in the bottom of the inning and the Hornets went back to work in the fifth. An error allowed Pickett to reach then Guarno beat out a bunt for a hit. Daniel slapped a single to right to load the bases and Sawyer came through with a two-run bouncer into right, taking second on a late throw to the plate.
Jackson was then issued a free pass to load the bases and, an out later, Walker singled in a pair of runs. When the relay sailed over the catcher’s head, Jackson took third and Walker went to second.
With two down, Kehrees reached base on catcher’s interference, loading them up again. Pickett drew an RBI walk then Guarno capped the inning with a two-run double, making it 13-4. Anthony Raby, running for Pickett was thrown out trying to score the run that would’ve made it a 10-run lead.
During the inning, Dillon Owen, the third Catholic pitcher, was confronted by the home plate umpire for complaining about ball-strike calls. Apparently, the Rockets had been vocal throughout the game. Neither team was enamored with the umpiring but Harper took the opportunity to compliment his players, saying, “I really appreciate the way our guys handled adversity. Let me take care of the umpires. I hope the kids aren’t saying anything to the umpires but, from what I’ve seen, they’ve handled themselves pretty well.”
Catholic started to get a rally going in the bottom of the fifth but, again, Winiecki snuffed out the big inning with an outfield assist. The Rockets had scored an unearned run and, with one out, had the bases loaded when March stroked a liner to center. Winiecki charged in to make the catch then fired home to Pickett, who applied to tag to Campbell, the runner from third for an inning-ending doubleplay.
But the Rockets’ kept the pressure on in the sixth when Getchal led off with a double and Driedric singled, taking second on an errant throw back to the infield.
Sawyer relieved for Bryant and issued a walk to load the bases before striking out clean-up hitter Michael Alonzo. Chwalinski, however, stayed hot with a single to right that plated two runs, making it 13-7.
With runners at second and third, Sawyer struck out Thompson and got Doan to line to Knight in right to keep it to that.
In the top of the seventh, the Hornets added an insurance run on back-to-back triples by Walker and Winiecki. Sawyer then retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning, striking out a pair. Kehrees, the Bryant first baseman, robbed Marsh of a hit with Sawyer covering the bag for the out.
The Hornets were scheduled to host Little Rock Mills in a non-conference game on Monday, March 12, before returning to league play at Pine Bluff on Tuesday. They travel to Russellville on Friday, March 16.