Price, Young spark Hornets in State opener
EDITOR’S NOTE: In this time of COVID-19, with no sports action, BryantDaily.com will be 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 — In just about any other year, senior right-hander Daniel Price would be the ace of the Bryant Hornets pitching staff. But this is not your average pitching staff and this is not a typical season.
The Hornets boast a pair of junior hosses in lefty Travis Wood (10-0, 0.96 earned run average) and righty Justin Wells (8-1, 1.52 ERA). Call them No. 1 and No. 1A.
So, with the No. 1- ranked Hornets entering their first game in the rain-delayed Class AAAAA State Tournament at Panther Field at Benton High School on Monday, May 3, everyone with half a chance was urging Bryant head coach Terry Harper to go with one of those top guys against the Blytheville Chickasaws, the No. 4 team from the AAAAA-East Conference. Harper, you see, was toying with the idea of going with Price.
“No one was giving me the advise I wanted,” Harper recalled. “But we talked with the kids and I put it back on them. I said, ‘I know what you want. I know this is going to give us the very best chance to win the whole thing. We don’t just want to survive, we want to win the whole thing.”
So, he went with his gut and started the senior and Price made him look like a genius, allowing just two runs and five hits without a walk over the first six innings. With seventh inning relief help from Todd Bryan, Price got the victory as the Hornets, powered by a big day from third baseman Zack Young, eased past Blytheville 9-3.
The win improved the Hornets to 29-2 and thrust them into the quarterfinals of the tournament on Tuesday against Watson Chapel, a 4-3 winner over Rogers on the first day.
“He’s done good all year,” Harper said of Price. “He’s 6-0. He was throwing his curveball for a strike. Up until that last inning, out of 25 batters he got ahead on 20. He was 0-1 on 20 of 25 batters which is huge. Especially with the good breaking pitch he’s got. He did a heck of a job.
“I had two lineups made out and I just closed my eyes and picked one,” Harper joked, regarding his decision. “No, really, the kids and I, we talked it about it all year. Basically, we wanted to make the State Tournament but once we realized we were rolling pretty good, we said we’ve got to win the conference and get the best seed in the tournament.”
The tournament had originally been scheduled to start on Saturday, May 1, but rain pushed the first round back to Monday.
“Saturday, we’d planned on starting Wells,” Harper allowed, “going with him for a couple of innings then bringing in Price. That way Wells would have plenty of rest to come back on Tuesday. Of course, it rained so we had to re-think that and I just figured that if we started Wells, he’d be pretty much done. Or if we got him out after two innings and Price had a little trouble, we’d have to bring in another pitcher. We’d have burned three pitchers.
“Now, we’ve really got it set up as far as what we want to do,” he added. “We know what’s going to happen. We’ve got plenty of pitching left. And that really takes a lot of pressure off our hitters.
“Of course, Zack hitting the ball helped today and we hit the ball in key situations and scored some runs,” concluded the coach. “We played a pretty complete ballgame.”
Indeed, pressure didn’t seem to bother the Hornets’ hitters at all. All nine of the team’s runs came thanks to two-out hits.
In the opening inniing, Bryan walked and Travis Wood was hit by a pitch. A sacrifice by Wells pushed the runners to second and third but they remained there with two down. But Young came through with a shot off the tip of the glove of Blytheville third sacker Nick Mastowski, who made a leap for the liner. The first of Young’s two doubles gave Bryant a 2-0 lead.
Richie Wood followed with a walk then Dustin Tinkler came through, ripping a triple into the right-field corner to make it 4-0.
After retiring the first six batters he faced, Price surrendered a double to his pitching counterpart, Cal Rose, to lead off the third. Courtesy runner Blake Westbrook advanced on a passed ball but Mastowski followed with a tap to third that Young fielded quickly. When he checked Westbrook before making a throw to first, Young caught him wandering too far off the bag and ran him down for the putout.
Price struck out the next batter but Chris Smith followed with a double. A single by Logan Rebstock made it 4-2. And when Rebstock’s hit was misplayed in the outfield, he advanced to second.
With the heart of Blytheville’s lineup due up, however, Price picked Rebstock off second to end the inning.
The Hornets, after loading the bases but not scoring in the third, added to their lead in the fourth. Dustin Easterly opened the inning with a double, but he was still at second after two were out. This time, Wells produced in the clutch, lining an RBI single over the second baseman’s head to make it 5-2.
A walk to Bryan Griffith put two aboard for Young, who proceeded to break the game open with his team-leading fourth home run of the season, giving him five runs batted in.
The Hornets tacked on a ninth run in the sixth. This time, Tinkler walked and swiped second, advancing on a grounder to second by Easterly. And, with two away, Bryan delivered an RBI single to left.
From the fourth inning through the sixth, Price had allowed just two hits but he began to tire in the seventh, issuing a walk and hitting a pair of batters around a strikeout. So, Harper brought in Bryan. Smith singled in a run to make it 9-3 but Bryan got Rebstock to ground into a game-ending doubleplay.