Bryant ousts Benton, Cabot
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By ROB PATRICK
It was just an average game for Travis Wood, literally.
In shutting out the rival Benton Panthers in the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAA State Tournament, Wood struck out 14 and allowed just two hits. That gave him 149 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings this spring. He’s allowed 20 hits.
It’s easy to figure, 70 innings is equivalent to 10 games, averaging out to just over 14 strikeouts and two hits allowed per game.
The 2-0 win thrust the Bryant Hornets into the semifinals against the Sylvan Hills Bears, a game away from returning to the championship game where they were disappointed last season against North Little Rock.
Bryant had opened the tournament on Saturday, May 7, with an 11-0 win over Cabot with junior Aaron Davidson tossing the shutout.
Wood’s whitewash of Benton was the third shutout in a row for Bryant pitchers, 18 consecutive innings dating back to their 7-4 win over Little Rock Central on April 25, and the 12th shutout of the season.
It was the Hornets 27th win in 33 games and ended the year for the young, promising Panthers, the third time Bryant had defeated Benton this season (fourth if you count a preseason game).
A huge crowd gathered for the late afternoon game on Monday, May 9, at Bryant Field. Wood, as it turned out, drove in the only run he wound up needing with a first-inning double that chased home Devin Hurt. A one-out double by Hurt set the table.
Matt Little, who had both of Benton’s hits, led off the bottom of the inning with a single but Wood picked him off after striking out Andy Ferguson.
In the second, Richie Wood extended his hitting streak to 10 games with an infield hit. He stole second and scored on a single to center by Bryan Griffith.
Though Bryant got runners on base in every other inning but the seventh, Benton sophomore right-hander Bennett James held the Hornets the rest of the way.
Though battling some uncharacteristic wildness, Wood preserved the shutout with the help of a pair of nice running catches in center by his cousin, Richie, and an aggressive play in left by Todd Bryan.
Bryan’s play came in the fifth when Benton made its most serious scoring threat. Wood struck out James but walked Greg Noble. He struck out Brian Church but walked pinch-hitter Mark Lewis. Little then delivered his second hit, a sharp single to left. Bryan charged the ball and caught it on one-hop then fired a throw home, holding Noble at third. Andy Ferguson then flew out to Griffith in right to end the inning.
Wood closed out the game with four straight strikeouts after issuing his fifth walk with two out in the sixth.
Bryant 11, Cabot 0
Bryant head coach Terry Harper took the chance of going with his No. 3 starter, Davidson, in the opening game against the No. 4 seed from the AAAAA-East and the junior right-hander came through with a five-hit shutout in five innings, aided, obviously, by the Hornets’ 13-hit attack that was capped off by a walk-off three-run jack by Bryan.
The Hornets scored in every inning. In the first, Hurt singled, stole second and scored on a triple by Travis Wood. In the second, Richie Wood’s single was misplayed allowing him to reach second. He scored when Griffith’s single to left drew a wild throw home.
Cabot’s best scoring opportunity had gone by the wayside in the top of the second. Tim Payne and Kyle West opened the inning with singles. Davidson retired the next two before issuing a walk to Kyle Stoner to load the bases. But he struck out Corey Wade to maintain the Bryant lead.
In the third, doubles by Hurt and Travis Wood made it 3-0. Davidson grounded to short and Wood took off for third beating the throw in the dirt. Courtesy runner Joey Winiecki stole second then Zack Young walked to load the bases for Richie Wood who singled in two.
In the fourth, Bryan singled. After a pitching change, he stole second, was sacrificed to third by Hurt and scored when Travis Wood’s two-out grounder to third was booted.
Young doubled to open the fifth. Richie Wood’s third hit sent Young to third and, on the throw to the plate, Wood took second. Griffith singled in a run then Corey Lambert beat out a bunt for an RBI single to make it 8-0.
On a 1-1 pitch, Bryan drilled one over the fence in left to end it.