State champion Diamond Hornets set to make 2011 debut

By Rob Patrick

In 2010, five teams tied for first place in the 7A-Central Conference and, at the State Tournament, all five[more] won games. The final four were all Central teams and, in the championship game, the Bryant Hornets beat the Van Buren Pointers for the title.

Bryant head coach Kirk Bock says expect the same tight conference battle in 2011.

“It’s a dogfight every time we go out,” he stated. “For instance, Catholic’s got two great arms coming back. Central’s got two good arms coming back. Russellville will be a lot better this year than they have been. Conway, all those kids that are seniors now have been starting since they were freshmen. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be exciting.”

Weather permitting, the Hornets will hit the field for a pre-season scrimmage against the 2010 Class 6A State runner-up Searcy at 5 p.m., on Thursday, Feb. 24. They’ll make their official debut on Monday, Feb. 28, at Pine Bluff.

Though the season has yet to begin, the Hornets are dealing with injuries. Both their top returning pitcher, Blake Davidson, as well as Hunter Mayall, the team’s leading hitter for two years running, have had shoulder surgery. Mayall has signed to play next year at Henderson State University.

“Hopefully, we can get Blake back midway through and, boy, it’d be nice to get Hunter back at some point in the season,” Bock said. “I don’t know if we will but that would be awfully nice.

“We’ve got two ankles right now with Jordan Taylor and Caleb Milam,” he continued. “I think we can get both those guys back in a couple of weeks. We’ve got a leg injury with Lucas Castleberry. I think we’ll get him back full strength in a couple of weeks. Other than that, we’ve got some aches and pains. We’ve got a catcher, Blain Jackson, who’s a little gimpy. But I think we’ll be okay.”

Taylor is the returning starter at shortstop and, along with Milam, turned in some quality work on the mound last year. Castleberry helped out at three infield positions.

“We’ve got arms, they’re just not proven arms,” Bock said regarding the pitching. “It’s going to be big for us whenever Blake can get back. Right now, he and Milam would probably be our 1-2 guys. If those guys could get back in, we’d have some depth in the ‘pen. (Dylan) Cross and Taylor, when he gets back, are quality starting guys but then you’ve taken them out of defensive positions too.”

Despite the absences, Bock said preparations for the season have gone well. He likes the talent he sees up and down the roster.“The young kids are catching on real fast, which is good,” he said. “Once we get everybody healthy, things will start to click for us and we’ll be okay. Right now, it’s spotty in some positions because we’re having to move people around a little bit especially on the mound because we don’t have all of our bullets. Once we get all our bullets, we’ll be okay.

“I think we’re going to be a little better offensively this year,” he continued. “I think we’re going to have a little more power. The kids have been working hard since August and putting in the whole system of hitting. We dabbled with it some last year, putting parts in. We’ve got the whole thing in this year and, hopefully, it’ll pay off for us.

“In the past, we’ve always been pretty strong defensively and strong on the mound,” add the coach. “These kids know how to play defense. They know how to play, and it’s not anything that we’ve done, it’s what they’ve learned in their youth programs. They’ve done a tremendous job preparing them to be able to play in high school and Legion baseball. If we can just keep enhancing what they’ve already learned, good things are going to happen.”

There is competition at every position.

“Right now, Tyler Brown and Daniel Richards are working at third,” Bock reported. “Tyler Nelson and Ashton Green at short, Ozzie Hurt and Korey Thompson at second, Landon Pickett and Wesley Akers at first. Evan Jobe and Hayden Daniel are in right, Josh Pultro and Tyler Green in center, Chris Joiner and Bradon Jones in left. Our catchers are Cross, Hayden Lessenberry and Jackson and we’ll probably have to use all those guys at some point in time.

“Lucas Castleberry is going to be a floater for us,” he continued. “He’s going to play third some, he’s going to play short some. He may play second some and he may play in the outfield some. He’s a very versatile player. He can probably play anywhere for us besides pitch and catch. But, again, he’s injured.

“Tryce Schalchlin, we think we’re going to be able to use him more often on the mound than in a position,” Bock mentioned.

“All those guys are doing a good job for us,” he added. “They’re just slugging it out and going.”

Once basketball season has concluded, Bock expects Marcus Wilson, Quinton Motto, Riley Hall and Zach Cambron to step in and contribute.

“Those guys are going to fit in pretty good for us,” he related. “One, all those guys are arms. Marcus is an outfielder and should compete for a spot pretty quick. And Riley Hall is a kid that really impressed me last year with being able to bounce around from position to position and do some things. Cambron is pretty much limited to first base but, man, he can swing it. Quinton Motto, with that (6-7) frame and everything, when it starts to click with him, he’s going to be a force to reckon with on the mound. Hopefully, he can get it done this year.”

Brown, Castleberry, Davidson, Joiner, Jobe, Milam and Pickett are the team’s seniors.

The juniors include Cross, Hurt, Jones, Motto, Nelson, Pultro, Rivers, Schalchlin and Taylor.

Sophomores listed on the varsity squad are Daniel Ashton Green, Tyler Green, Jackson, Lessenberry, Richards, and Wilson. There’s also Cambron, Austin Caldwell, Josh Davis, Cody Gogus and Hall.

The freshman are Akers, Dakota Besancon, Harrison Dale, Devin Dupree, Justin Emmerling, Zach Graddy, Dalton Holt, Tristan Matthews, Austin Miller, Gray Orman, C.J. Phillips, Thompson, Chase Tucker and Jacob Ward.

One change this season is that the teams in the Central Conference will be playing league doubleheaders instead of a home-and-home round-robin schedule.

“There won’t be any days when a Ben Wells could throw a short game on Tuesday then bounce back and close on a Thursday,” Bock noted, referring to last year’s ace who signed with the Chicago Cubs last fall and was in town throwing batting practice for the Hornets this week. “But everybody’s in the same boat.”

Any added pressure for the team after winning the program’s first State title?

“You know some people think there’s a lot of pressure on you after you win one but these kids are used to being successful,” Bock stated. “They take it in stride. I think every kid in this program has been successful at one time or another. So, we just go to work.”

Here are last season’s statistics with the returning players in italics:


Final unofficial 2010 stats through 33 varsity games


Name ab r h bi d t hr bb* so sb avg

Hayden Daniel 3 22 2 3 1 0 0 1 0 7 .750

Josh Pultro 3 1 2 2 1 0 0 1 0 1 .750

Tyler Nelson 2 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500

Matt Neal 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .500

Ozzie Hurt 5 1 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .400

Hunter Mayall 105 22 37 21 9 1 0 22 5 3 .352

Landon Pickett 26 5 9 6 0 0 1 4 7 2 .346

Jordan Taylor 102 18 34 25 11 1 0 21 5 2 .333

Garrett Bock 100 31 33 21 4 2 0 20 12 8 .330

Brady Butler 86 20 28 20 4 2 2 25 24 6 .326

Chris Joiner 118 27 38 15 7 1 1 10 18 4 .322

B.J. Ellis 53 2 16 13 5 0 1 17 12 0 .308

Lucas Castleberry 46 10 13 7 0 0 0 6 18 1 .283

Brennan Bullock 106 21 28 18 2 0 1 15 17 6 .264

Caleb Garrett 88 21 23 16 2 1 1 11 16 11 .261

Tyler Brown 36 6 7 6 1 0 0 14 5 1 .194

Dylan Cross 12 0 0 1 0 0 0 6 4 0 .000

Cameron Price 2 1 0 1 0 0 0 2 2 0 .000

Evan Jobe 2 10 0 0 0 0 0 4 1 2 .000

Dylan Pritchett 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .000

Jimi Easterling 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 —-

Marcus Wilson 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 —-

Totals 897 223 274 178 47 8 7 180 147 56 .305


Name w-l ip r er h bb* so era

Matt Neal 1-0 3 0 0 3 1 3 0.00

Ben Wells 9-2 81.1 27 14 53 33 113 1.20

Dylan Cross 2-1 13.2 8 3 10 15 15 1.54

Caleb Milam 4-3 35.1 20 10 48 13 34 1.98

Blake Davidson 5-2 59 25 17 51 29 49 2.02

Jordan Taylor 4-0 30.1 12 11 23 7 23 2.54

Totals 25-8 222.2 92 55 188 98 237 1.73

Saves: Wells 3.

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