By Rob Patrick
Chances are, they’re not all going to be this easy.
But, hey, who knows?
The Bryant Hornets banged out 14 hits to take advantage of nine errors and 10 walks in a 20-1 romp over the Pine Bluff Zebras in a pre-season benefit scrimmage at Bryant High School Field on Thursday night.
A quartet of pitchers — Blake Davidson, Caleb Milam, Jordan Taylor and Ben Wells — limited the Z’s to four hits — three of them by the Zebras’ hit machine Claude Johnson — while issuing just two walks and fanning 13.
In the field, the Hornets committed just one error despite playing so many players. And, at the plate, 19 different players got to the plate and 18 of them reached base at least once. Lucas Castleberry and Chris Joiner each had two hits.
“I was pleased,” stated Hornets coach Kirk Bock. “I thought, for the most part, after the first couple of innings, we executed the offense pretty well as far as bunting and running and stuff like that. Early, we weren’t squaring up balls very good but that’ll come.
“I thought our pitching did a good job,” he added. “I thought the first three pitchers we had did a great job and I thought Ben did a great job in the seventh. In the sixth, he was kind of over-throwing a little bit. He didn’t locate real well. But the pitching and defense really did well. And we’re a lot further ahead right there than we have been.”
The depth of talent for the Hornets was also noticeable.
“Really, defensively, when we put those guys out there, they do a good job,” Bock acknowledged. “They’re going to play just like those other guys that out there.
“One of the things that we’ve changed about our practices this year is, they’re getting a lot more live reps,” he mentioned. “They’re seeing it over and over and over again, which is something I wish I’d started doing 20 years ago. You know, every time we find something better, we change. The way we’re practicing right now has really helped us defensively.”
Asked if anything proved to be a pleasant surprise, Bock said, “I didn’t expect we’d score 20 runs but I knew we’d compete; and the depth, without really missing a beat, when we starting rolling different people in. You know, we’ve been playing these games all year, every day we end (practice) with four-inning games and those guys compete against one another and they just do a tremendous job. It always comes down to one or two runs, one way or another. So, they battle.”
On the mound, Davidson started and worked the first two innings. He allowed one hit, walked one and fanned the last four batters he faced in succession. Milam breezed through his first inning fanning two. Nick Anderson reached base but Milam picked him off.
In Milam’s second inning, Johnson stroked a double to left center and scored on a seeing-eye single by Torey DeShazier through the left side. The junior right-hander retired the next three with ease, however, finishing with his third K.
Taylor struck out three in the fifth, though one of them reached on a third-strike pitch in the dirt with two down. The next batter was called out on strikes to end the inning.
Wells was greeted by Johnson’s third hit in the sixth. A walk and a passed ball had runners at second and third but when Pine Bluff’s Steven Todle tried to bunt in a run, third sacker Tyler Brown charged the ball well and threw to the plate where Dylan Cross tagged out Johnson.
Wells then struck out the next two to get out of the inning before working a 1-2-3 seventh including another punch-out.
Offensively, the Hornets scored in every innings but the bottom of the seventh, which was played just to give a few more batters a chance at the plate and Johnson, the sixth Pine Bluff pitcher, an inning of work. Johnson pitched around a pair of errors and hit batsman in the only inning that Bryant didn’t cross the plate.
In the first, Joiner singled and Garrett Bock beat out an infield hit. Joiner was picked off but Bock hustled into second behind the play and, after taking third when Hunter Mayall tapped out, scored on a bloop single to right by Brennan Bullock.
Bullock, when second base appeared to be uncovered, tried to get in there on the play but DeShazier, the pitcher, got back in time to tag him out to retire the side.
A six-run second started the onslaught. Taylor lashed a double down the left-field line and went to third on a single by Brady Butler. Castleberry walked to load the bases and, an out later, B.J. Ellis lined an RBI single up the middle to make it 2-0.
Butler scored on a wild pitch then Castleberry and courtesy runner Hayden Daniel came around when Joiner’s tap to third drew a wild throw to first.
Bock walked and, after a passed ball put runners at second and third, Mayall shot a long fly to right center that was tracked down. Joiner tagged and scored, then when the ball was mishandled in the outfield, Bock followed him in to make it 7-0.
Taylor started the third inning again, this time with a walk. Butler got a sacrifice bunt down which was booted. Taylor took third when the base was left unoccupied. Castleberry followed with a bunt and reached base when the third baseman held Taylor without a throw.
With the bags juiced, Caleb Garrett cracked a single to center, driving two. An out later, Joiner blooped a single to right that loaded the bags again.
Castleberry scored when Bock’s tap in front of the mound was kicked around. Garrett scored on a sharp single to center by Mayall and Joiner came in on a bases-loaded walk to Bullock.
That made it 12-0.
In the fourth, Landon Pickett drew a lead-off walk and swiped second. Castleberry singled him to third then Garrett got a bunt down that not only moved Castleberry to second, it got Pickett home when it was muffed.
Cross followed with a grounder to short that resulted in a wild throw to second in an attempt at a force. Castleberry scored and Garrett raced to third. Joiner picked up an RBI on a grounder to short, making it 15-0.
Evan Jobe walked and Pickett was hit by a pitch to start the four-run fifth. Castleberry’s second hit — and fourth time to reach base — loaded the bases for Daniel, who walked to force in a run.
Cross got a bloop to fall in left but Castleberry had to hold at third to see if the ball would be caught. That enabled the Zebras to get a force at third but Cross got an RBI when Pickett sprinted home.
Ozzie Hurt slapped a single to right to fill the bases for Josh Pultro who pounded a drive to left-center for a two-run double that made it 19-0.
Run No. 20 scored in the sixth inning. Jobe walked and, with two down, Jimi Easterling was hit by a pitch and Daniel sliced a double inside the right-field line.
The Hornets B team was set to play on Monday with a doubleheader at Pine Bluff starting at 4:30 p.m. The varsity makes its official debut at Watson Chapel on Tuesday at 4:30 with a JV game to follow.