Successful season tune-up for Hornets
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Photos by Rick Nation
Jason Hastings and Trevor Ezell came through with clutch run-scoring hits as the Bryant Hornets rallied for four runs in the bottom of the sixth to beat the Hot Springs Lakeside Rams, 4-2, in a pre-season game on Thursday night.
Seven pitchers — one per inning — allowed just two hits, one earned run, struck out seven and walked five. Dalton Holt picked up the win and Zack Jackson earned a save as they finished it off.
“Pitching and defense I thought did a good job,” said Hornets coach Kirk Bock. “Offensively, we just miss-hit balls. I thought our timing was pretty good. We just miss-hit them. That’s what we were telling them: In a real game you get a little tense and you get a little nervous and it’s not like practice. So the more real games we get to play the better off we’re going to be.
“We strung some things together and we came out on top and, obviously, I’m happy about that but I would’ve been happy even if it wouldn’t have happened,” he insisted. “We played hard and our approach was good.”
As for the pitching, the coach said, “I really think they all did good. They did what they’re supposed to do.”
Lakeside got a run in the top of the first when Bo Ritter walked and, on a hit-and-run, Marcus Fisher grounded into the hole on the right side. Bryant second sacker Korey Thompson somehow managed to get a glove on the ball to knock it down, keeping the lead runner from advancing past second.
But the duo worked a double steal and, on a passed ball, Ritter scored.
Other than that, Hornets starter Blaine Knight struck out the side.
That was the lone run and the lone hit through five innings. Hastings worked the second and walked Christian Lopez but Eric Aguirre smacked a liner to Brandan Warner at third. Warner snared it and fired to first to double off Lopez to end the frame.
In the third, Devin Dupree worked a 1-2-3 inning with some defensive help from Thompson on the first two batters.
Evan Lee eased through the fourth, retiring the side in order. In the fifth, Harrison Dale got some defensive help from Drew Tipton who had taken over at second. The next batter walked but Dale left him there, setting down the next two including one on a strikeout.
Holt started the sixth by issuing a walk to Ryan Crumpton. He stolen second and scored on a single to left by Fisher making it 2-0. A solid relay by the Hornets nailed Fisher trying to get to second on the play for the first out of the inning. After Holt issued another walk on a borderline 3-2 delivery, he fanned the next two to send it to the bottom of the sixth.
The Hornets threatened to score in the first inning when Ezell drew a walk. Pinch-runner Connor Tatum was forced out on Trey Breeding’s grounder to short but Breeding stole second and took third on a passed ball. But he was stranded as Ritter retired the next two.
That started a stretch in which Lakeside pitchers retired eight in a row. Breeding walked in the fourth and, with Tatum in to run, a wild pitch got him to second and Blake Patterson’s grounder to the right side moved him to third. But he was left on as well.
In the fifth, the Hornets again put together a threat. With one out, Hastings reached on an error. With two down, Thompson and Ezell drew walked to load the bases. But Fisher, the fifth Rams pitcher, got out of the inning by inducing a fly to right to end the inning.
Jonathan Baimore took over on the mound for the Rams in the sixth. He started the inning with a strikeout but then Justin Emmerling smacked Bryant’s first hit of the game, a solid single to left. Warner, in to run for Emmerling, stole second and, after Chase Tucker walked, a double steal put the potential tying runs in scoring position.
When Tipton walked as well, the Hornets had the bases loaded with Hastings coming to the plate.
Warner tried to score on a pitch in the dirt but the Lakeside catcher jumped on it and tossed to Baimore in time to tag him out.
With runners at second and third, however, Hastings shot a 2-2 delivery into left for a game-tying single.
Walks to Lee and Thompson followed, loading the sacks again. This time, Ezell came to the plate. He rolled one to deep short for an easy infield hit, scoring Hastings. And when the shortstop’s unleashed an errant throw, Lee scrambled home to make it 4-2.
In the top of the seventh, Jackson hit Carter Zeiser but, with Brandon Hall at the plate, he picked Zeiser off. Zeiser followed with a roller that Jackson fielded cleanly, throwing to first for the out. A pitch later, Chase Willingham skied to Lee in left to end the game.
The Hornets are scheduled to open the season officially on Monday at home against Arkadelphia. Watson Chapel comes to Bryant on Tuesday then the team heads to a tournament in Texas, which commences on Thursday.