Surging Hornets knock off first-place Conway, 10-3
EDITOR’S NOTE: In this time of COVID-19, with no sports action, BryantDaily.com will be posting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By Rob Patrick
And down the stretch they come!
Like Ice Box closing on Supersaver in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, the Bryant Hornets are making a late run at the leaders. They may catch them and they may not, but they’re the hottest team in the 7A-Central Conference right now after a 10-3 win over the Conway Wampus Cats on Tuesday.
Bryant has won four games in a row now (after losing six straight) and, for the second time in that stretch, they knocked off a team in first place. (The other was Van Buren on April 26).
In the whacky 7A-Central, Conway still holds a share of first with North Little Rock at 7-5. Bryant jumped into a tie with Little Rock Catholic, Van Buren and Little Rock Central at 6-6, with Cabot (the Hornets’ next opponent on Thursday) and Russellville at 5-7.
With two games left on the league schedule, no one has clinched a bid to State and no one has been eliminated.[more]
In fact — get this — it’s entirely possible that all eight teams in the league could finish 7-7. In a season of unusual parity, don’t be surprised. The Hornets, for example, could win the conference championship and earn a first-round bye at the State tournament or they could still miss the post-season.
Obviously, the former is what they have in mind.
“They think they can beat anybody,” declared Hornets coach Kirk Bock. “And I keep reassuring them that I think that they’re the best team in the state, and now they think they’re the best team in the state.
“You know, early in the year, we had that mindset,” he recalled. “But then we hit that little skid and we started doubting ourselves. But they’re back with the right mindset right now. And knowing that if something a little bad happens, it’s not the end of the world. Early in the year, we were like that. It was no big deal, we’ll make up for it. But, during that little skid, we’d worry about that kind of stuff.
“Tonight, we were up 7-0 and (Conway) picked up a couple of runs and it was no big deal, let’s just go out and do our job,” he added.
Bryant senior ace Ben Wells picked up the win, going the distance and throwing fewer than 100 pitches, an indication that his new approach of pitching more to contact so he can cut down on his pitch count, was successful. He still fanned six but he walked just one while surrendering six hits.
“He’s doing a great job,” Bock stated. “He got a little tired at the end. I talked to him the inning before, coming in, and he goes, ‘Yeah, I’m getting a little tired but I’m still able to throw that sinker and get them to beat it into the ground so I’m still effective.’ I said, ‘All right, we’ll just go with you until we can’t.’ He did a great job.”
Wells needed just seven pitches in a 1-2-3 seventh to close it out.
He was supported by a 12-hit attack against a trio of pitchers including starter Bo Stitch, a former Hornet hurler.
“That’s getting us back on track,” Coach Bock said of the offense. “Bo’s a good pitcher. I wish we still had Bo. He was probably a little nervous coming in but he’s a great kid. I hate that it happened to him but I’m glad it didn’t happen to Ben.”
Garrett Bock drove in four runs with a pair of singles, B.J. Ellis continued his hot hitting with a pair of doubles and three batted in, while Hunter Mayall and Brady Butler contributed two hits apiece. Butler’s included a solo homer just inside the right-field foul pole for the first run of the game with one out in the bottom of the second.
The Hornets tacked on two more runs in the inning. Ellis drew a walk and Tyler Brown was hit by a pitch. When Caleb Garrett bounced to short for a force on Brown at second, Hayden Daniel, running for Ellis, took third. Garrett stole second and the Wampus Cats issued an intentional walk to Mayall to load the sacks.
That’s when Bock came through with his first single, a shot up the middle that chased home Daniel and Garrett.
Wells, who allowed just one baserunner over the first two innings — he hit Tyler Langley with two out in the first — made a sparkling bare-hand play on a tap to the third-base side of the mound, throwing out Matt Lefler to open the third. Garrett Baldwin, however, followed with a double to the gap in left-center. He stayed at second as Aaron Boucher beat out a bunt for a hit but both were stranded when Wells struck out Cole Anderson and got Langley to bounce to Brown at third.
The Hornets went back to work at the plate in the home third. Chris Joiner singled and Brennan Bullock placed a bunt so well, he got a hit. An errant pickoff throw allowed them to move up to second and third. Butler flew to right then Conway head coach Noel Boucher brought in side-winding right-hander Andrew Adams.
Ellis was first to hit against Adams who got his first two pitches in for strikes. But Ellis then turned on the next delivery and scorched it past third and into the left-field corner for a two-run double to make it 5-0.
On the very next pitch, Brown singled sharply to center just over the glove of the leaping Lefler at second. Daniel, running again for Ellis, had to hold in case the liner was caught and only made it to third. But Garrett brought him home with a sacrifice fly.
Evan Jobe, running for Brown, swiped second and scored on a two-out single by Mayall to make it 7-0.
Conway broke through with two in the top of the fourth. Jordan Cates doubled with one down. Connor McClain then fouled off four 3-2 pitches to earn a walk. A wild pitch put runners at second and third for Patrick Mann who delivered an RBI single to left. McClain, who wound up at third on the play, scored on a passed ball.
But, with Mann at second, Wells struck out Lefler and Baldwin to keep it 7-2.
He would fan two more in a three-up, three-down fifth and his teammates padded the lead in the bottom of the frame.
Butler singled to left and stole second. Ellis then worked the count to 3-2 before slapping a shot between first baseman Cates and the bag for another RBI double.
Jordan Bell became the third Conway pitcher and retired the first two he faced. He appeared to be out of the inning when he got Mayall to slap one back to the mound but Bell let it get by him. A wild pitch allowed Mayall to get to second as Daniel held at third with Bock back at the plate. The count went to 2-2 before the senior outfielder rifled another single up the middle to plate a pair.
Trailing 10-2, the Wampus Cats tried to mount a rally in the sixth. Wesley Hoover doubled and took third on a wild pitch. He held as Cates bounced out to third but he scored on a single by McClain.
Bryant shortstop Jordan Taylor was shading up the middle with the left-handed Mann at the plate next. That put him in perfect position to flag down Mann’s grounder near the bag, step on it and relay to first for a rally-killing doubleplay.
BRYANT 10, CONWAY 3
Wampus Cats Hornets
Boucher, ss 4 0 1 0 Mayall, dh 3 1 2 1
Anderson, cf 3 0 0 0 Bock, cf 3 0 2 4
Langley, 3b 2 0 0 0 Taylor, ss 4 0 1 0
Hoover, rf 3 1 1 0 Joiner, 2b 4 1 1 0
Cates, 1b 3 1 1 0 Hurt, 2b 0 0 0 0
McClain, c 2 1 1 1 Bullock, lf 4 1 1 0
Mann, lf 3 0 1 1 Butler, 1b 4 2 2 1
Lefler, 2b 2 0 0 0 Ellis, c 2 0 2 3
Nail, ph 1 0 0 0 Daniel, cr 0 3 0 0
Baldwin, dh 3 0 1 0 Brown, 3b 2 0 1 0
Stitch, p 0 0 0 0 Jobe, pr 0 1 0 0
Adams, p 0 0 0 0 Garrett, rf 2 1 0 1
Bell, p 0 0 0 0 Wells, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 26 3 6 2 Totals 28 10 12 10
Conway 000 201 0 — 3
BRYANT 034 030 x — 10
E—Stitch, Bell. DP—Conway 1, Bryant 1. LOB—Conway 4, Bryant 5. 2B—Baldwin, Ellis 2, Cates, Hoover. HR—Butler. S—Bock. SF—Garrett. SB—Garrett, Boucher, Jobe, Butler.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Stitch (L) 2.1 5 5 5 2 0
Adams 1.2 4 2 6 0 1
Bell 2 1 0 1 0 2
Wells (W) 7 3 2 6 1 6
HBP—Langley (by Wells), Brown (by Stitch). WP—Wells 2, Bell. PB—Ellis.