Van Buren rallies for 9-5 win in first-place showdown with Hornets

By Rob Patrick

VAN BUREN — A few things happened to the Bryant Hornets on Thursday that hadn’t happened to them all season.

For one thing, they handed out nine walks and hit a batter.

And, though they’ve had games in which they committed three errors, they haven’t had many in which every one of those three played into run-scoring for their opponent.

Too, they’ve rarely had a lead they didn’t protect.

Oh, and one more thing:

Until Thursday, they hadn’t lost to an in-state team nor a 7A-Central Conference opponent.[more]

But all that stuff happened to the Hornets at Iverson Riggs Memorial Field in the Field of Dreams Park at Van Buren.

The home-standing Pointers rallied from a 5-0 deficit to win the early-season first-place showdown 9-5 and, coupled with North Little Rock’s extra-inning win over Conway, they took over sole possession of first place in the league at 3-0.

Bryant, now 15-2 overall and 2-1 in the 7A-Central, is scheduled to travel to Lake Hamilton for a non-league game then return to conference play at home on Tuesday, April 6, against Russellville.

“We just didn’t do what we needed to do,” declared Hornets coach Kirk Bock, who refused to fault the home-plate umpire’s seemingly small strike zone. “We’ve got to figure out the zone. It’s nobody’s fault but ours. We just didn’t do a very good job on the mound. We didn’t do a very good job defensively. And for six innings we didn’t do a very good job offensively.

“We didn’t concentrate,” he added. “It wasn’t that we relaxed, we just didn’t focus up. I thought the kids played hard. We just didn’t play focused and if you don’t focus up against good teams, you’re going to get beat. That’s what happened today.”

Everything seemed to be in the Hornets’ favor except that they had made the long trip to Van Buren. They had senior ace Ben Wells on the mound and they avoided Van Buren’s ace, Brandon Moore, who had won the Pointers’ previous two conference games including a one-hit shutout over North Little Rock.

And when they took that 5-0 lead in the third inning, it looked like the start of something big.

But Van Buren scratched out a run in the bottom of the third, got two more in the fourth, two in the fifth to tie then came up with four in the bottom of the sixth on just one hit — a three-run double by Paul Schneider — to take the 9-5 lead and leaving the Hornets just three outs to pull together a comeback. But reliever Jacob Gatling retired the side in order in the top of the seventh to close out the win.

Bryant’s third began with a one-out walk to B.J. Ellis and a sharp singled down the left-field line by Chris Joiner. Garrett Bock drew a walk to load the bases for Hunter Mayall. And when Mayall beat out an infield hit on a chopper up the third base line, the Hornets had a 1-0 lead.

Brennan Bullock followed with a single up the middle that plated Joiner. Bock was held at third but Mayall didn’t realize it and, after making the turn at second, nearly made it all the way to third. He got into a rundown and when the Pointers misplayed one of the throws, not only did Mayall make it back to second but Bock scored to make it 3-0.

On the next pitch, Jordan Taylor mashed a double to the fence in left-center to chase Mayall home. Bullock, who wound up at third, scored moments later on a wild pitch. Brady Butler, who had walked, followed Taylor to second to get into scoring position but Van Buren right-hander Tyler Spoon ended the inning with a strikeout.

Still, the Hornets had a seemingly comfortable 5-0 lead. The problem was that they managed just one hit the rest of the game, a single by Mayall to open the top of the fifth.

Caleb Garrett, facing Gatling, reached base on a third-strike wild pitch with two down in the sixth with the game tied 5-5. He stole second and drew a wild throw that allowed him to take third. Pinch-hitter Landon Pickett came to the plate and worked the count to 3-2 before taking a third strike on a pitch the umpire said caught the outside corner.

The Pointers’ run in the third was scored by Gatling, who led the inning off with an infield single. He took second on a wild pitch, third on a groundout by Logan Meadors and scored what appeared to be an inconsequential run on another wild pitch.

In the fourth, however, the Pointers continued their comeback. Alan King walked and Schneider singled. Wells fanned Logan Mayhar but Brant Ramsey drew a walk to load the bases.

The Hornets thought they had King picked off but didn’t get the call. They tried again and, this time, the throw got away allowing him to score.

Wells fanned Gatling and was a strike away from getting out of the inning when Meadors slapped a single to right. Schneider scored but, on a nice relay from Garrett in right to Butler the cut-off man to Ellis, pinch-runner Cole Puckett was nailed at the plate to retire the side.

Spoon pitched around Mayall’s single in the top of the fifth with Logan Patterson turning a 6-3 doubleplay. In the bottom of the inning, Patterson drew a lead-off walk and Spoon singled him to third. Wells tried to pick Spoon off first but, again the throw was in the dirt, getting past Butler. Patterson scored to make it 5-4 and Spoon wound up at third with nobody out. Moore singled him home on an 0-2 pitch, tying the game.

King drew a walk but Wells worked out of the inning with no further damage.

In the home sixth, sophomore right-hander Dylan Cross relieved for the Hornets and appeared to have a great start when he fanned Gatling on a pitch in the dirt. The ball rolled up the third-base line and Ellis got out to it in plenty of time. But he couldn’t get a grip on the ball and when he fumbled it, Gatling reached safely.

Meadors followed with a walk after working the count to 3-2 and, on an 0-2 pitch, Patterson was hit by a delivery to load the bases with no one out. Spoon delivered the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly.

The Hornets intentionally walked Moore to load the bases and set up a force at every spot, hoping for an inning-ending double play. Cross came back to strike out King but, on a 1-0 delivery, Schneider pulled a liner down the left-field line for the bases-clearing double.

Cross issued a walk and Taylor relieved to get the final out.

Joiner made a bid for his third hit of the game to lead-off the seventh but Gatling deflected it to Schneider at second who threw to first in time for the out. Spoon then made a nice play on a slow roller to third off Bock’s bat for the second out. Gatling ended it by inducing a grounder to short by Mayall for the third out.

“It’s a long season,” Coach Bock reminded. “We’ve got to get better.”


Bryant Van Buren

ab r h bi ab r h bi

Joiner, 2b 4 1 2 0 Patterson, ss 1 2 0 0

Bock, cf 2 1 0 0 Spoon, p-3b 3 1 1 1

Mayall, dh 4 1 2 1 Moore, 3b-1b 2 1 1 1

Bullock, lf 3 1 1 1 King, c 2 1 0 0

Taylor, ss 3 0 1 1 Schneider, 2b 4 1 2 3

Butler, 1b 2 0 0 0 Mayhar, dh 3 0 0 0

Castleberry, 3b-ss 3 0 0 0 Johnson, rf 0 0 0 0

Garrett, rf 3 0 0 0 Ramsey, rf-cf 3 0 0 0

Ellis, c 1 0 0 0 Puckett, pr 0 0 0

Daniel, cr 0 1 0 0 Gatling, cf-p 3 2 1 0

Pickett, ph 1 0 0 0 Meadors, lf 2 1 1 1

Wells, p 0 0 0 0 Johnson, 1b 0 0 0 0

Cross, p 0 0 0 0

Brown, 3b   0 0 0 0

Totals 26 5 6 3 Totals 23 9 6 6

BRYANT 005 000 0 — 5

Van Buren 001 224 x — 9

E—Patterson, Wells 2, King, Ellis. DP—Van Buren 1. LOB—Bryant 4, Van Buren 7. 2B—Joiner, Taylor, Scheider. S—Bock. SF—Spoon. SB—Garrett.

Pitching ip r er h bb so


Wells 5 5 3 5 6 6

Cross (L)  0.2 4 0 1 3 2

Taylor 0.1 0 0 0 0 0

Van Buren

Spoon 5 5 4 6 3 4

Gatling (W) 2 0 0 0 0 3

HBP—Patterson (by Cross). WP—Wells 2, Spoon, Cross. 

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