Taylor’s slam caps 10-run rally as Hornets earn split at Russellville
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
File photos by Rick Nation
RUSSELLVILLE — With the wind blowing a gale (if not a cyclone) out to left field, it figured that any[more] ball that was hit with any authority into the jet stream would fly out of Field one at Hickey Park on Thursday.
For a while, that was a problem for the Bryant Hornets. While the Russellville Cyclones were taking advantage with five home runs, the Hornets were struggling to get the ball out of the infield.
A first-inning grand slam by Jake Holloway and one-hit pitching by Derek Birginske keyed the Cyclones’ 5-1 win in the first game of the 7A/6A-Central Conference doubleheader. Then homers by Holloway, Frank Chiolino, Eric Turner and Quaid Standridge had Russellville leading game two, 6-4, going into the fifth inning.
But a 10-run uprising in the fifth capped off by Jordan Taylor’s grand slam turned the tide as the Hornets piled up a 20-6 win in the second game to earn the split.
The Hornets improve to 19-5 overall this season and at 9-3 in league play, kept sole possession of first place going into their final conference twinbill, against second-place Little Rock Catholic on Thursday, May 5.
Russellville, which will compete at the Class 6A level in the post-season, is now 6-6 in the 7A/6A-Central.
“It was huge,” said Bryant head coach Kirk Bock of the second-game victory. “I don’t know what everybody else (in the conference) did tonight but we certainly had to have that one.”
In fact, the second win kept the Hornets a game ahead of Conway which swept Cabot. The Wampus Cats are 8-4 in league play. And with a split with North Little Rock, Catholic slipped to 7-5 going into the final week. The Hornets will need at least a split with the Rockets to guarantee a share of the regular-season title. Conway finishes at North Little Rock.
Taylor had two doubles while going 3 for 4 in the nightcap. He drove in five. Evan Jobe was 2 for 3 with four knocked in. Tyler Nelson, Tyler Brown and Landon Pickett had two runs batted in apiece as well.
“We just competed a little more in that second game,” Bock stated. “We trusted letting the ball get deep.”
Dylan Cross pitched 3 2/3 innings of no-hit relief to earn the win.
In the first game, Taylor had the only hit, a ground single into the hole vacated by Chiolino, the second baseman, as he tried to hold Brown at second. It knocked in the lone Bryant run of the game.
Birginske struck out 11, walked two but hit five batters in the game, changing speeds effectively and working his pitches in on the Hornet batters. He also was supported by a pair of outstanding defensive plays at key moments.
“The guy did a great job,” Bock acknowledged. “My hat’s off to him. He did a tremendous job. We just didn’t do a very good job. We work that approach every day. We just didn’t do a very good job.”
Taylor absorbed the loss. After the rugged first inning, he allowed just two hits through the fifth inning to keep the Hornets within striking range.
In that opening inning, Chiolino, who had just robbed Taylor of a hit with a diving stop at second to end the top of the inning, split the gap in right-center for a double. Cody Jones came up and, after fouling off a pair of 3-2 pitches, cracked a sinking liner to left. Chris Joiner charged in, went to his knees and appeared to pluck the ball out of the air shoe-top high. But the field umpire ruled that Joiner short-hopped the ball. Chiolino held at second but Jones was awarded first.
Despite an appeal on the play, it stood. Taylor struck out Birginske but a walk to Eric Turner loaded the bases for Holloway, who squared up a 2-1 delivery and sent it over the fence in center for a slam.
Taylor came back to strike out the next two. He worked around a hit batsman and a single with two out in the second, overcame a lead-off double in the third plus an error and a walk in the fourth. He struck out the side in the fifth.
“After the first inning, J.T. settled down and did a good job,” Bock related. “And, you know, if we get that call (in left field), that’s an out. We had a pick and had the guy out at first base and we had a miscommunication. We would’ve walked (Holloway) then the next guy strikes out and we would’ve been out with no runs in.”
But the Hornets couldn’t get the ball out of the infield on Birginske who pitched around a pair of hit batsmen in the second. In the fourth, Taylor walked and courtesy runner Tyler Green advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw by Birginske, who must’ve thrown to first 20 times in the game.
But Green was thrown out trying to take third on a grounder that Birginske fielded off Pickett’s bat. He then got Cross to bounce into a doubleplay to end the inning.
In the fifth, he struck out the side around a hit batsman — Josh Pultro — and a walk to Hayden Lessenberry.
The Hornets got on the board in the top of the sixth. Brown was hit by a pitch, took second on a wild delivery then scored when Taylor grounded the ball through to vacated second baseman’s hole. Brown had stopped at third but when right fielder Brandon Turner misplayed the ball, he came on home as Taylor reached second.
Another wild pitch allowed Green, again in to run for the pitcher, to take third but Birginske struck out the next two batters. Joiner came up and attacked the first pitch he got, drilling a sharp grounder that appeared to be headed for the left-field corner only to have Holloway rob him with a diving stop behind the third-base bag and a spot-on throw to first to end the threat.
The Cyclones got the run back in the bottom of the inning on consecutive singles by Hayden Hipps, Keith Dove and Standridge as Taylor tired.
Freshman Wesley Akers relieved with runners at first and third and one out. He induced flyouts by Chiolino and Jones to leave them there.
Pultro was hit for the second time to lead off the seventh. He took second on a passed ball and third on Jobe’s long fly to right — the first flyball to the outfield in the game. But Pultro was stranded at third as Birginske came back to retire the next two batters, ending the game.
In the second game, Holloway broke up a scoreless duel between Jones and Bryant’s Caleb Milam with a solo shot to left-center in the second.
The Hornets took the lead in the top of the third. Pultro walked and Jobe placed a bunt so well, he got a base hit out of it. Lessenberry then got the sacrifice down to put runners at second and third. With two out, Brown slapped a single to right to drive in the first run. He then got picked off first but stayed in the rundown long enough for Jobe to race home with the go-ahead tally.
Chiolino belted a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the inning and, after Jones singled and Birginske doubled, Turner unloaded for a three-run shot to make it 5-2.
Milam recouped from that, retiring the next three including two on strikes.
And the Hornets whittled on the margin in the fourth. Taylor laced his first double to left and, after Jones made a dive catch of Pickett’s popped up sacrifice attempt, Lucas Castleberry looped a single to right. Joiner grounded up the middle to drive in Taylor then Pultro singled to load the bases. Jobe picked up an RBI on a tap to first, making it 5-4.
Standridge, however, made it 6-4 with a solo blast with one out in the fourth. Bock brought in Cross who proceeded to walk the first two he faced. But Birginske grounded into a doubleplay and the Hornets escaped further damage, setting up the game-turning blitz in the top of the fifth.
A walk to Nelson started the inning. Brown sacrificed him to second then Taylor drilled his second double to make it 6-5. And when Pickett knocked one off the center field fence for a double to tie the game, Jones was lifted in favor of Brandon Turner.
Turner appeared to have the second out of the inning when Castleberry skied a foul down the first-base line. But first sacker Eric Turner couldn’t haul in the wind-blown pop and, with new life, Castleberry worked a walk. A free pass to Joiner loaded the bases.
Pultro hit a chopper to third and Birginske, after bobbling the ball, threw home. Though it appeared the Holloway, the Cyclones’ catcher, was well in front of the plate when he caught the throw, Pickett was ruled out.
With two down the game still tied, Jobe came up and fought off four 3-2 pitches before smacking a grounder to the right side. Chiolino ranged to his left, dove and stopped the ball but couldn’t get it to first in time as Jobe beat out a single. And not only did Castleberry score but so did the hustling Joiner to give Bryant an 8-6 edge.
The wheels came off for Turner at that point. He walked Lessenberry to load the bases then hit Nelson to force in a run. Brown walked to force in another then, on a 3-1 pitch, Taylor launched a drive to left-center for his slam.
Dove relieved and the Hornets loaded the bases again as Pickett and Joiner walked around a single by Castleberry but Pultro grounded out to end the inning with Bryant leading 14-6.
Cross then made a statement by retiring the side in order in the bottom of the inning.
Standridge, the fourth Russellville pitcher, worked around a walk in the sixth then the Hornets turned a doubleplay to erase an error in the bottom of the sixth.
Bryant added six more runs off Mitch Mullin in the seventh. After Brown singled and Taylor walked, Pickett hit a towering pop to shallow right that fell in. With one out, Joiner walked then Taylor scored on an errant throw to the plate on Pultro’s bouncer to short.
Jobe walked to pick up his fourth RBI then two runs scored when Lessenberry’s two-hopper to second was booted. A sacrifice fly by Nelson set the final score.
Cross had to work around a walk and a hit batsman in the bottom of the inning but nailed down the victory in short order.
Bryant will host Sheridan in a non-conference game on Tuesday, May 3, before hosting Catholic on Thursday.
RUSSELLVILLE 5, BRYANT 1
Hornets ab r h bi Cyclones ab r h bi
Nelson, ss-2b 4 0 0 0 Chiolino, 2b 3 1 1 0
Brown, 3b 2 1 0 0 Jones, cf 4 1 2 0
Taylor, p-ss 2 0 1 0 Birginske, p 3 0 0 0
T.Green, cr 0 0 0 0 E.Turner, 1b 2 1 1 0
Pickett, 1b 3 0 0 0 Holloway, 3b 3 1 1 4
Cross, dh 2 0 0 0 B.Turner, rf 3 0 0 0
Joiner, lf 2 0 0 0 Hipps, c 3 1 1 0
Pultro, cf 1 0 0 0 Mizes, cr 0 0 0 0
Jobe, rf 3 0 0 0 Dove, dh 3 0 1 0
Lessenberry, c 1 0 0 0 Mizes, pr 0 0 0 0
Rivers, cr 0 0 0 0 Standridge, lf 2 0 1 1
Castleberry, ph 1 0 0 0 Mullen, ss 0 0 0 0
Hurt, 2b 0 0 0 0
Akers, p 0 0 0 0
Totals 21 1 1 0 Totals 26 5 8 5
Bryant 000 001 0 — 1
Russellville 400 001 x — 5
E—Birginske, Taylor, Lessenberry, B.Turner. DP—Russellville 1. LOB—Bryant 6, Russellville 7. 2B—Chiolino. HR—Holloway. SB—Jones, Standridge.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Taylor (L, 4-2) 5.1 5 5 8 2 5
Akers 0.2 0 0 0 0 0
Birginske (W) 7 0 0 1 2 11
HBP—Cross, Joiner, Pultro 2, Brown (by Birginske), Chiolino (by Taylor). WP—Birginske 2, Taylor 1. PB—Hipps
BRYANT 20, RUSSELLVILLE 6
Hornets ab r h bi Cyclones ab r h bi
Nelson, 2b 3 2 0 2 Chiolino, 2b-cf 3 1 1 1
Brown, 3b 3 2 2 2 Jones, p-cf 2 0 1 0
Richards, ph 1 0 0 0 Mizes, cr 0 1 0 0
Taylor, ss 4 4 3 5 Reasoner, 2b 0 0 0 0
Pickett, 1b 4 1 2 2 Birginske, 3b-rf-lf 4 0 1 0
Castleberry, dh 4 2 2 0 H.Standridge, pr 0 1 0 0
Joiner, lf 2 2 1 1 E.Turner, 1b 3 1 1 3
Pultro, cf 4 3 1 0 Holloway, c 4 1 1 1
Jobe, rf 3 3 2 4 B.Turner, rf-p 4 0 0 0
Lessenberry, c 3 0 0 1 Hipps, cf 1 0 0 0
T.Green, cr 0 1 0 0 Cooper, 3b-2b 1 0 0 0
Milam, p 0 0 0 0 Dove, dh-p 1 0 0 0
Cross, p 0 0 0 0 Mullin, ss-p 1 0 0 0
Totals 31 20 13 16 Totals 26 6 6 6
Bryant 002 2(10)0 6 — 20
Russellville 014 100 0 — 6
E—Mullin, E.Turner, Cross, Reasoner, Underhill. DP—Bryant 2, Russellville 1. LOB—Bryant 6, Russellville 6. 2B—Taylor 2, Pickett. HR—Holloway, Chiolino, E.Turner, Q.Standridge, Taylor. SB—Jobe. S—Lessenberry, Brown. SF—Nelson.
Pitching ip r er h bb so
Milam 3.1 6 6 6 2 2
Cross (W, 5-0) 3.2 0 0 0 3 2
Jones 3.1 6 6 8 2 1
B.Turner (L) 0.1 8 0 2 4 0
Dove 0.1 0 0 1 2 0
Q.Standridge 1 0 0 0 1 1
Mullin 1 6 2 2 3 2
HPB—Nelson (by B.Turner), Curry, E.Turner (by Cross). WP—Mullin 2, Cross. PB–Holloway.