Bryant blasts Watson Chapel
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 — The word about Bryant’s junior left-hander Travis Wood has gotten around. On internet chatboards, through talk between coaches, umpires and players throughout the season, baseball folks around the state have heard the predominant opinion that Wood is the best pitcher in the state.
It makes people curious to see him perform.
So, in the second round of the Class AAAAA State Tournament at Panther Field at Benton High School, there was a good contingent of folks on hand without allegiance to either the Hornets or the Watson Chapel Wildcats.
In fact, you could probably have counted the Wildcats among the curious. And with their 29-5 record and hitting exploits (40-something home runs, it’s been said, during their season), they were, no doubt, anticipating getting a crack at “the best in the state.”
In fact, the quarterfinal game between the two teams figured to be a doozy. Bryant, too, came in with 29 wins and not only a No. 1 ranking in the state, but a No. 23 ranking in the country (by Baseball America). Chapel, which won the regular-season championship of the AAAAA-South, had been ranked as high as No. 3). Both teams had designs on a State title.
But that doozy of a game never developed.
Wood made believers of the Wildcats as he fired a one-hit shutout, striking out 14 in just six innings while the Hornets amassed 15 hits in an 11-0 win.
Bryant advanced to the semifinals of the tournament, the third time for that to happen in the program’s history, hoping to be the first to reach the finals.
The Hornets’ offensive outburst was paced by Todd Bryan, who had three hits and was highlighed by senior Dustin Easterly’s first-ever home run, a two-run shot in the top of the sixth that completed the Bryant rout.
Wood struck out the first six Watson Chapel batters. He walked a man to lead off the third then someone finally hit the ball into fair territory. On a sacrifice bunt attempt, designated hitter Zach Varnell popped up to Bryan Griffith at first. Wood struck out the next two.
In fact, of the 18 outs recorded in the six-inning game, 14 came on strikeouts and the other four on pop outs.
The only hit was a two-out single to left by Zack Hale in the fourth. That came after Wood had hit Scott Donaldson with a pitch. But both runners were stranded as Wood stuck out the side.
The lefty had all the run support he would need after the top of the first. Bryant pushed two runs across, the second thanks to some heady baserunning by Griffith. Bryan led off the game with a single. Travis Wood then walked. With one out, Griffith bounced to the mound but a wild throw to second allowed Bryan to score. With two down, Richie Wood beat out an infield hit but Griffith was caught rounding second too far. A rundown ensued and Griffith was able to stay in it long enough for Hunter Nugent, running for Wood, to score, making it 2-0.
It stayed that way until the fourth when Korey Hunter led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second by Easterly. Bryan was hit by a pitch and, with two out, Justin Wells, Griffith, Zack Young and Richie Wood stroked consecutive singles to make it 6-0.
In the fifth, Andrew Moseley singled and Easterly, who leads the team in sacrifices, bunted Moseley to third after he had taken second on a wild pitch. An infield hit by Bryan scored the run.
The sixth inning began with walks to Griffith and Richie Wood around an infield hit by Young. Dustin Tinkler’s single to left drove home Griffith but Young was thrown out trying to follow.
Wood and Tinkler hustled up a base on the throw enabling Wood to score on Moseley’s groundout. On the next pitch, Easterly slugged his round-tripper to make it 11-0.