Unearned runs lift Conway past Bryant with share of league lead on the line

File photo by Kevin Nagle

CONWAY — Here’s a list of the Bryant Hornets baseball team’s losses in 2018 going into Tuesday’s first-place showdown with the Conway Wampus Cats:

Feb. 26, 1-0 at Hot Springs Lakeside;

Mar. 16, 2-1 at White Hall;

Mar. 23, 6-5 to Conway at Little Rock Christian;

Apr. 2, 1-0 at Cabot.

So, the 2-0 loss they suffered at the hands of Conway’s lefty ace Jordan Wicks on Tuesday was their most lopsided of the season.

“We haven’t been beaten by anybody yet,” declared Hornets head coach Travis Queck. “In all five losses, we’ve beaten ourselves.”

Queck proceeded to list the mistakes made in those one-run losses.

“It’s frustrating,” he asserted.

Wicks, an Arkansas State commit, held the Hornets to a pair of singles. But then, Bryant’s duo of Logan Grant and Coby Greiner, likewise, limited the Wampus Cats to two singles.

The difference came on defense. A pair of two-out errors in the bottom of the third, coupled with a hit batsman and an infield hit resulted in the only two runs of the game.

Wicks made that stand up. After pitching out of a two-on, two-out jam in the top of the fourth, he wound up retiring the last 10 Bryant batters to close out the game.

Conway improved to 7-0 against the league. Bryant fell to 5-2, tied with Cabot, a 2-1 winner over North Little Rock on Tuesday. And, because of Cabot’s 1-0 win over the Hornets, for all intents, Bryant is in third place as the conference enters its second half.

The Hornets host Fort Smith Northside on Thursday in league play. Before that, however, they host the rival Benton Panthers in a non-conference contest on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Greiner singled with one out in the first inning only to be erased on a doubleplay.

In the third, Logan Catton drew a one-out walk but was stranded.

In the fourth, two were down when Matthew Sandidge singled to center and Austin Ledbetter worked a walk. It was the only time the Hornets got a runner to second.

And Wicks left them aboard with a strikeout that started the string in which he retired 10 straight. In the fifth, Myers Buck unloaded on a 1-2 pitch for a drive to deep center. But it was flagged down by Parker Gavazzi to end the inning.

Grant, meanwhile, walked Gavazzi to start the home first. An errant pickoff throw allowed him to get to second and, with one out, Matt Lloyd walked. But the Bryant right-hander got Wicks to ground into a force at second and forced the Wampus Cats to strand runners at the corners with he got Andrew Hreha to bounce out to Scott Schmidt at second.

In the second, Grant plunked James Martindale but then picked him off first in a 1-2-3 frame.

The third opened with Clay Tollett was struck by a 1-1 pitch. He reached second on a wild pitch then third when Gavazzi grounded out to Greiner at short. Grant struck out Jack Stroth and appeared to be out of the inning when he induced a grounder to second off the bat of Lloyd. But the ball was booted and not only did Lloyd reach safely but Tollett scored the game’s first run.

Wicks followed with a grounder to deep short that Greiner got to, but Wicks beat out for Conway’s first hit of the game. Lloyd went to second on the play then scored when Hreha’s grounder to first was misplayed.

And that was it. Greiner relieved the hard-luck Grant in the fourth and, after a walk to Cade White, induced an inning-ending doubleplay.

Gavazzi singled to open the fifth, but Greiner set down the next three with a little help from Sandidge in centerfield. All three batters flew out to Sandidge but it took a splendid catch on a sprint toward the infield to retire Lloyd.

Greiner set down the Cats in order in the bottom of the sixth, but Wicks closed out the win.

The Hornets will have rematches with Conway as well as Cabot later this season. Both of those will be at home.

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