By Rob Patrick
When the Pine Bluff Zebras take on the Lake Hamilton Wolves this Friday in 7A/6A-South Conference[more] play, they can commiserate with each other about how difficult it can be to hit against Bryant Hornets’ senior right-hander Nate Rutherford.
On April 5, Rutherford tossed a one-hit shutout against the Wolves with the lone hit a swinging bunt up the third-base line to open the fifth inning. On Wednesday, it was the Zebras whom Rutherford blanked on one hit. The long safety was a one-out bouncer up the middle (that Rutherford nearly speared) by Pine Bluff’s Aaron McDonald.
Both games ended in five inning with the Hornets on top 10-0 as part of their current 13-game winning streak. Now 20-5 on the season, with just one loss against an Arkansas team, Bryant improved to 8-1 in league play, retaining a share of the league lead going into Friday’s contest against winless Little Rock Fair.
Rutherford walked two, struck out three and, thanks to the continued stellar play of the Bryant defense, faced just one over the minimum. The Hornets turned a doubleplay to erase McDonald. In the third, the Zebras’ Ti’Montai Bolden and Walter Ashley drew walks but, after Adam Graham grounded into a force at second, Rutherford ended the inning by picking Graham off of first.
Meanwhile, on offense, the Hornets were all over the bases, pounding out 11 hits to go with five walks and two hit batsmen. Marcus Wilson went 3 for 3, Trevor Ezell and Brandan Warner had two hits each and Hayden Daniel drove in three runs.
Bryant led just 3-0 through three innings against freshman right-hander Jordan O’Guinn. But they knocked out the Pine Bluff starter in the fourth on their way to a six-run uprising.
The game ended in accordance with the 10-after-5 run rule in the home fifth when Daniel stroked a single to center to drive in Ezell with the 10th run.
Ezell had walked with one out, stolen second then held when Wilson beat out an infield hit to short. With two out, Daniel lined an 0-2 pitch for the clincher of Z’s reliever J’Marlos Johnson.
Ezell was on base all four times he came to the plate and scored each time. In the first, he singled to left and stole his way to third. Wilson, who was also on all four times up, drew a walk and stole second before free passes were issued to Hayden Lessenberry and Daniel to force in a run. Ty Harris followed with a solid single to center to make it 2-0.
O’Guinn set down the Hornets in order in the second, briefly matching Rutherford who retired the first six batters he faced in the game.
In the third, after the Bryant starter had worked around his only two walks, the Hornets added a third run when Ezell’s grounder to third drew a wild throw, allowing him to go to second. Wilson singled him to third and, after Lessenberry was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Daniel delivered a sacrifice fly.
The game-breaking fourth began with a shot off the walk in left by Warner for a double. Trey Breeding then got down a perfect bunt and beat it out for a hit as Warner took third. And when ball four to Tyler Green got past the catcher, Warner scored, courtesy runner Austin Caldwell took third and Green hustled around first and reached second.
Another wild pitch allowed Caldwell to score to make it 5-0. Green followed when Ezell sliced a liner down to right for an RBI double.
Johnson came on at that point to relief O’Guinn, and he and Wilson battled to a 3-2 count before the Bryant senior laced a single to center to chase in Ezell.
Lessenberry singled and Drew Tipton came on as a pinch-runner. He and Wilson worked a double steal and when Pine Bluff catcher Brandon Starks’ throw got past Gealander Harris at third, Wilson scored.
With Tipton at third, Johnson retired the next two batters but then hit Korey Thompson was a pitch. On his next delivery, Warner brought an end to the uprising he’d ignited, yanking an RBI single to left to make it 9-0.
Rutherford, who only threw 51 pitches in the game, only needed seven to retire the Zebras in the top of the fifth, setting up the Hornets game-ending home half.