Watson Chapel produces the last of a series of traded rallies to edge Hornets for Classic title

By Rob Patrick

PINE BLUFF — Did you ever have one of those days at work when you’re about to take off for a[more] week’s vacation and you’d like to leave, at say, 3-ish but things don’t work out that way? But that’s okay. You plan on leaving at 6 or 6:30. But you just can’t get that last project completed. Complications arise and you’re pushed back to 7:30 or 8 for departure and who knows when for your arrival.

That’s the kind of day the Bryant Hornets had on Saturday.

With their 14-hour trip to play in the Florida League High School Invitational tournament looming, the Hornets had hoped to play the championship game of the eighth Billy Bock Classic at 11:30 a.m., so they could get an early start. That didn’t work out so they were set to play at the original finals time of 4:30 p.m.

Further complicating things, the game went to extra innings as the Hornets and the Watson Chapel Wildcats took turns making comebacks in the late going with one seemingly less likely that the one before it. Not only did their departure time get pushed back past 7, the Hornets absorbed a 9-8 loss.

As the home team, Chapel got the last laugh — and the Classic championship — rallying for four runs in the bottom of the eighth to overcome an 8-5 deficit. Hayden Harrison’s one-out bases-loaded single capped the rally, handing the Hornets their second loss in nine games this season and avenging a 10-4 setback at Bryant on March 3.

“It was whoever was going to get the last at-bat right there,” acknowledged Hornets coach Kirk Bock. “Chapel did a great job. I think they out-willed us and out-played us and good things happened for them.”

For a while, it looked like Bryant had done it again. After scoring twice in the bottom of the seventh to edge White Hall in the Classic semifinals on Friday, the Hornets wiped out a 4-1 deficit in the top of the seventh, scoring four times to take a 5-4 lead.

Taking advantage of a single, an error and a pair of wild pitches, Chapel eked out a run in the bottom of the inning to send it to extras. The Hornets responded with three in the top of the eighth only to have the Wildcats trump them in the bottom of the inning.

Collen Massanelli, who was named the tournament MVP, opened the home eighth with a walk on a 3-2 pitch. The count went to 2-2 on John Lawson who was then hit by a delivery from Dylan Cross, Bryant’s third pitcher of the game. Wyatt Jones, who had taken over on the mound for Chapel in the top of the inning as the Wildcats’ sixth pitcher, swatted the first pitch he saw to right for an RBI single.

The Hornets appeared to get a break when the ball got to the wall but Lawson didn’t see it or was deked by the Bryant infield into holding up. Instead of a double or triple, Jones had to settle for a long single.With runners at first and second, Reece Huffty got a bunt down that not only moved up the runners but went for a single to load the bases.

Cross gave way to Caleb Milam but, on his first pitch, Josh White was hit forcing in a second run and trimming the Bryant lead to one. Chapel tied it on a dribbler down the third-base line off the bat of Victor Dickson.

With the infield in, Milam got Ricky Hawkins to bounce one back to the box and into a force at the plate. A pitch later, however, Harrison ended it.

The Hornets had taken the initial lead when, with one out in the top of the first, Tyler Brown singled, Jordan Taylor walked and Cross was hit by a pitch to load the bags. Landon Pickett lined out to right but a walk to Tyler Nelson forced in the run. Justin Dardenne, the Wildcats’ starter, induced a pop on the infield to end the inning, forcing Bryant to strand the first three of 13 that wound up left on base in the game.

Chapel gained the lead in the bottom of the first. Harrison and Dardenne singled and, after Massenelli bounced into a force at second, Lawson, with Massenelli running from first, drove a single to left-center that got both runners home.

Nelson, Bryant’s starter, gained his bearings and retired the next two including Zach Bradford on strikes to keep it 2-1.

Dardanne and Nelson each pitched around two-out singles in the second. In the third, Hawkins robbed Taylor a hit with a diving catch to his right in left. Dardenne wound up surrendering two-out walks to Pickett and Nelson but got out of the jam unscathed.

He then led off the bottom of the third with a bad-hop single that skipped past Taylor at short after hitting the lip of the infield grass. Massanelli stroked a single to right, sending Dardenne to third. He was, again, on the run when Lawson slapped a single to right. And when a late throw to third sailed beyond reach, Massanelli scored as well to make it 4-1.

Nelson gave way to Pickett who was making his first mound appearance of the season. The senior right-hander proceeded to retire 13 in a row including seven on strikes.

The Hornets threatened in the fourth when, with two down, Joiner singled, Brown reached on an error and Taylor walked to load the bases. But Cross popped to short as Josh White, on in relief of Dardenne got out of the jam.

It went to the seventh with the Wildcats still up 4-1. But pinch-hitter Lucas Castleberry shot a drive to right that turned outfielder Matt McClain all around and hit off the fence for a double. That started Bryant’s first rally. Taylor swatted a double down the left-field line just beyond the reach of the speedy Hawkins. Playing it safe down by three runs, Castleberry made sure the ball was down before trying to advance and he only made it to third. But Cross delivered a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

An intentional walk to Pickett set up a force play at third and second but Nelson spoiled the strategy when he lined an 0-2 pitch into right for a single to load the bases.

White gave way to Lawson but, on his first pitch, he hit Hayden Lessenberry to force in a run and, a pitch later, Josh Pultro yanked a single to left that not only got the tying run in but the go-ahead tally across as well.

With runners at first and second and just one out, however, the Chapel reliever got a strikeout then a fly to center to send it to the bottom of the seventh.

Pickett retired Dickson to start the inning but then Hawkins, who was being DH’d for to start the game, lined a single to left. And when it was misplayed in the outfield, he took off for second. On a bang-bang play that Bock disputed, he reached second despite a strong throw from Joiner in left.

Cross was brought in to pitch at that point but unleashed a wild pitch to allow Hawkins to take third before Harrison struck out. Another pitch got sailed on Cross, out of the reach of Lessenberry, the Bryant catcher. But the ball ricocheted back to the catcher off the back wall. With Hawkins coming home, Lessenberry grabbed the ball and turned towards home. It appeared that, at first, he thought he could beat Hawkins to the plate. By the time he realized he couldn’t, it was too late to toss to Cross who came in to cover home on the play.

So Chapel had tied it and the game went to extra innings.

The Hornets put themselves in position to win again by scoring three times. Zach Bradford relieved for Chapel and Brown greeted him with a single to center. Taylor sacrificed pinch-runner Tyler Green to second then Cross drew a walk. Marcus Wilson came on to run for him as Bradford was pulled in favor of Trey Moser, who had been catching the entire game up to that point.

Moser’s first pitch was wild, allowing the runners to move up to second and third. The count went to 3-0 on Pickett as the Wildcats tried to issue an “unintentional intentional walk. When Pickett didn’t offer on the first three throws, he was awarded first intentionally without a fourth delivery.

With the bases loaded, Moser walked Nelson to force in the tiebreaker. That resulted in Jones’ turn on the mound. Lessenberry grounded into a force at second on a slow roller to short, picking up an RBI as Wilson scored. Pultro followed with a grounder to short that was booted allowing Pickett to cross the plate, making it 8-5.

Subsequently, nothing went right for the Hornets in the bottom of the inning as the Wildcats put together the game-winning uprising.

For the Hornets, who were making their fourth straight appearance in the finals of the Classic and trying to win for the third time, Pultro, Taylor and Pickett were named to the all-tournament team. Bryant, 7-2, was set to attend the opening ceremonies at 5 p.m., Eastern time on Sunday before opening pool play in the tournament Monday at 4 p.m. EDT, against the St. John Neumann Celtics of Naples, Fla.

WATSON CHAPEL 9, BRYANT 8, 8 innings

Hornets ab r h bi Wildcats ab r h bi

Joiner, lf 5 0 2 0 Harrison, 2b 5 1 2 1

Brown, 3b-1b 4 1 2 0 Dardenne, p-ss 4 1 2 0

Castleberry, ph 1 1 1 0 Massenelli, cf 3 3 1 0

T.Green, pr 0 1 0 0 Lawson, dh-p-1b 3 1 2 3

Richards, 3b 0 0 0 Moser, c-p 3 0 0 0

Taylor, ss-3b 2 1 1 0 Jones, p 1 1 1 1

Cross, dh-p 2 0 0 1 Bradford, 1b-p 3 0 0 0

Wilson, cr 0 1 0 0 Huffty, c 1 0 1 0

Milam, p 0 0 0 White, rf-p 3 1 0 1

Nelson, p-ss-2b 2 1 1 2 Dickson, 3b 4 0 1 1

Daniel, cr 0 0 0 0 McVay, ss 1 0 1 0

Lessenberry, c 4 0 0 2 Stargell, rf 1 0 0 0

T.Green, cr 0 0 0 0 McClain, rf 0 0 0 0

Jackson, cr 0 0 0 0 Hawkins, lf 2 1 1 0

Pultro, cf 5 0 1 2

Jobe, rf 1 0 0 0

Daniel, rf 4 0 0 0

Hurt, 2b 0 0 0 0

Totals 32 8 9 7 Totals 34 9 12 7

BRYANT 100 000 43 — 8

Watson Chapel 202 000 14 — 9

One out when winning run scored.

E—Dardenne 2, Joiner. DP—Watson Chapel 1. LOB—Bryant 13, Watson Chapel 6. 2B—Castleberry, Taylor. S—Taylor. SF—Cross.

Pitching ip r er h bb so


Nelson 2 4 3 7 0 1

Pickett 4.1 1 0 1 0 7

Cross 0.2 3 3 2 1 1

Milam (L) 0.1 1 1 2 0 0

Watson Chapel

Dardenne 3 1 1 2 4 1

White 3.1 4 4 4 2 0

Lawson 0.2 0 0 1 0 1

Bradford 0.1 2 2 1 1 0

Moser 0 1 1 0 2

Jones (W) 0.2 0 0 0 0 1

Nelson faced three batters in the third.

Cross faced four batters in the eighth.

Moser faced two batters in the eighth.

HBP—Lessenberry (by Lawson), Lawson (by Cross), White (by Milam). WP—Nelson, Pickett, Cross, Moser. 



  1. John Jobe

    Great job covering the game Rob. Too bad we had to have a sour ending for you. Nice to see Lucas Castleberry back in action. Hopefully he’ll see more and more very soon. He is a smart player, especially on the infield.

    See ya at the ball game(s),


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

error: Content is protected !!