By Rob Patrick
PINE BLUFF — Jordan Taylor took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and wound up combining with[more] Tyler Nelson on a two-hit shutout as the Bryant Hornets earned a shot at the championship of the Billy Bock Classic with a 7-0 win over the Watson Chapel Wildcats Friday night.
Junior Tyler Green took advantage of his first varsity at-bats this season, going 3 for 4, and Taylor had two hits in the game for Bryant, which improved to 4-0 on the season. The Hornets will take on White Hall for the championship today at 4:15 p.m.
Taylor retired the first seven batters he faced then had to work around a pair of errors in the third inning. But he forced the Wildcats t o strand runners at second and third to preserve his team’s 3-0 lead at that point.
After fanning two more in a 1-2-3 fourth, Taylor retired the first two batters in the fifth before Chapel’s Cameron Banks pulled a double into the left-field corner for his team’s first hit of the game.
The next batter, pinch-hitter Jacob Owens, earned the only walk the Bryant pitchers surrendered and another error loaded the bases with two down. But Taylor got out of the jam with his ninth strikeout, retiring the Wildcats’ starting hurler Justin Dardenne.
Nelson got the last six outs — five of them on strikes. He also made a sparkling play off the mound on a swinging bunt by Chapel’s Zach Bradford. The only base-runner the Wildcats managed against Nelson came on a two-out bouncer up the middle by Reece Huffty moments after the pitcher’s defensive play.
“When we can secure it down defensively, I think we’re going to be okay,” commented Hornets coach Kirk Bock, the son of the event’s namesake. “I think our pitching’s going to be all right. We just can’t add pitches to them like we have been lately.
“Hitting right now, we’re still kind of in spurts,” he added. “But I think the more games we play, the more comfortable we’ll be and we’ll be okay.”
The Hornets got all the runs they would wind up needing in the bottom of the first. With one out, Green got things started by ripping a 2-1 pitch from Dardenne into the gap in right-center for a single.
“Tremendous,” Bock said of Green’s three-hit game. “It’s not surprising. We had to find a way to get him a chance in there. At the beginning of the year, he wasn’t doing very well but, in the last two weeks, he’s really come on and done a good job in our BP (batting practice) and intersquads and stuff. And he darn sure made the most of the opportunity he got tonight.”
The count was 2-1 again with Taylor at the plate. Green was put into motion and Taylor laid into Dardenne’s delivery lining a shot to left-center that allowed Green to score all the way from first.
With Taylor at second, Josh Pultro drew a walk then Hayden Lessenberry was hit by a pitch to load the bags. With two down, Chase Tucker was hit by a pitch as well, forcing in a run. Perhaps shaken by hitting two batters in the inning, Dardenne unleased a wild pitch with Daniel Richards at the plate. Pultro scored to make it 3-0.
Dardenne settled in after that, for a while. He surrendered a one-out walk to Nelson in the second then Green looped a single to left. But the Chapel right-hander got off the hook by inducing a doubleplay ball off Taylor’s bat.
In the third, Dardenne worked a 1-2-3 frame, striking out a pair.
In the fourth, Tucker greeted him with a double to right. Wesley Akers sacrificed him to third then, with two out, Nelson walked.
Bock put on a play in which Nelson broke for second early, forcing a throw but Chapel played it well and, as soon as Tucker started to break for home, Bradford, the Wildcats’ first baseman, fired to third to nap Tucker as he tried to scramble back to the bag.
The Hornets chased Dardenne in the fifth. Green’s third hit was a shot that ricocheted off the pitcher toward second. Taylor then went the other way again for a base hit and when the Zebras tried to make a play on Green as he raced into third, Taylor alertly scampered into second.
That set the table for Pultro, who pulled a grounder through the left side for an RBI single. With one out, Dylan Cross was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Tucker. On a 1-2 pitch, Tucker hit a grounder that stayed down on shortstop Wyatt Jones, went through the wickets and into center allowing both Taylor and Pultro to score, making it 6-0.
Jones relieved at that point and proceeded to issue consecutive walks to Akers and Hayden Daniel to force in the final tally. Jones then retired the last five Bryant batters including striking out the side in the bottom of the sixth.
BRYANT 7, WATSON CHAPEL 0
Wildcats ab r h bi Hornets ab r h bi
Colson, cf 3 0 0 0 Nelson, ss-p 2 0 0 0
J.Dardenne, p-ss 3 0 0 0 Green, lf 4 2 3 0
Jones, ss-p 3 0 0 0 Taylor, p-3b 4 0 2 1
Bradford, 1b 3 0 0 0 Ezell, cr 0 1 0 0
Huffty, dh 3 0 1 0 Caldwell, cr 0 1 0 0
Dickson, 3b 3 0 0 0 Pultro, 1b 3 2 1 1
Stargill, lf 3 0 0 0 Lessenberry, c 3 0 0 0
Banks, rf 3 0 1 0 Caldwell, cr 0 0 0 0
McVay, c 2 0 0 0 Cross, dh 2 1 0 0
Owens, ph 0 0 0 0 Tucker, rf 2 0 1 2
J.Dardenne, 2b 0 0 0 0 Richards, 3b 1 0 0 0
Akers, 3b 0 0 0 0
Ezell, cr 0 0 0 0
Daniel, cf 2 0 0 1
Hurt, 2b 0 0 0 0
Totals 26 0 2 0 Totals 23 7 7 5
E—Richards 2, Akers, Jones. DP—Watson Chapel 1. LOB—Bryant 7, Watson Chapel 6. 2B—Taylor, Tucker, Banks. S—Akers. SB—Pultro.
Watson Chapel 000 000 0 — 0
BRYANT 300 040 x — 7
Pitching ip r er h bb so
J.Dardenne (L) 4.1 7 5 7 3 3
Jones 1.2 0 0 0 0 0
Taylor (W, 2-0) 5 0 0 1 1 9
Nelson 2 0 0 1 0 5
HBP—Lessenberry, Tucker, Cross (by J.Dardenne).