Fayetteville’s big lead disappears
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
It’s hard to imagine that the Bryant Hornets could match their comeback from a 9-3 deficit against the rival Benton Panthers to win 11-9 on Tuesday, April 6, must less surpass it.
But they did.
With the help of Fayetteville’s pitchers who issued a whopping 16 walks and hit three batters, the Hornets overcame a 12-2 deficit to mortify the Bulldogs in a 14-13 decision that improved Bryant’s record to 22-1 on the season.
The comeback culminated in a six-run rally in the bottom of the seventh. Justin Wells’ single drove in Todd Bryan with the winning run after Bryan had singled in the tying tally and advanced on a base hit by Dustin Tinkler.
Fayetteville’s fans, coaches and players were furious about the strike zone but it wasn’t any better for Bryant pitchers who combined to walk 10.
And neither team was sharp in the field. Fayetteville, the defending Class AAAAA State champion, committed five errors; Bryant, ranked No. 1 this season, committed four.
Despite the fact that it was a non-conference game, Fayetteville started ace left-hander Chad Coldiron, who along with Bryant’s Travis Wood is considered one of the best pitchers in the state. Coldiron was hardly dominant but was able to force Bryant to strand 10 baserunners in his four innings of work while his teammates built the big lead.
Senior lefty James Leigh, taking the mound for the first time since limiting Lake Hamilton to two hits in a 12-2 win on March 10, allowed six runs on six hits, walked five and struck out five over three-plus innings. In the fourth, he issued a walk to Ryan Solsbury before Daniel Kelly lashed a triple to right center.
Bryant head coach Terry Harper then turned to sophomore Aaron Davidson, making his first varsity appearance on the mound. Fayetteville went on to score four in the fourth before Davidson could get out of the inning. In the fifth, Fayetteville got four more, two after an error extended the inning.
The Hornets scored a run off Coldiron in the second when Travis Wood singled, Andrew Moseley walked and Dustin Easterly slapped a single to right.
In the fourth, Easterly tripled and eventually scored on a wild pitch before Coldiron got out of a bases-loaded jam.
Three outs away from ended the game with a run-rule win, Fayetteville replaced Coldiron and the wildness intensified (Coldiron had walked six and hit two in his four innings). Blake Kastl took over and walked Travis Wood, Korey Hunter and Easterly. Louie Lancaster relieved and proceeded to issue free passes to Bryan and Tinkler with a wild pitch along the way that allowed a run to score.
An increasingly frustrated Fayetteville coach, Vance Arnold, brought in Mark Bonner who hit Wells to force in yet another run then struck out a pair before issuing another RBI walk to Bryan Griffith. Travis Wood came up again and hit a grounder to third that was booted allowing Tinkler and Wells to score to complete a six-run inning that did not include a single hit.
Bryan relieved after that and worked around a walk in the top of the sixth. Bonner walked two in the bottom of the sixth but escaped with the 12-7 lead intact.
In the top of the seventh, Fayetteville appeared to stem the tide of momentum Bryant had built by adding an unearned run on a walk, a stolen base and a throwing error. A tremendous defensive play by Griffith on a sinking liner to right with a runner at second saved further damage.
The Hornets’ seventh began with a walk to Zack Young and more squawking from Fayetteville folks. Richie Wood’s grounder to first was booted then Griffith walked to load the bases.
That spelled the end of the mound work of mouthy Bonner, who had no less than three run-ins with Bryant players, coaches and the umpires but survived to finish the game. Atha relieved and Travis Wood greeted him with a two-run single to left. Hunter followed with a grounder to short that drew a bad throw to first allowing another run to score, making it 14-11.
With no one out, the Hornets worked the safety squeeze. Bunter-extraordinaire Easterly somehow got a bunt down on a pitch up around his chin and Travis Wood scored and Hunter took third with the potential tying run. Consecutive singles by Bryan, Tinkler and Wells followed to push the Hornets over the top.