Photos courtesy of Crissy and Madison McEntire
HOT SPRINGS — The Hot Springs Lakeside Rams and pitcher Brady Prince didn’t want to throw a fastball to Bryant’s Jake Wright. But they didn’t want to load the bases either.
So, on a 3-2 count with two out in the top of the sixth, with the Rams trying to protect a 3-1 lead, they took a chance.
Wright jumped on it and hit a screamer to left. It was hooking, and it looked like Prince and the Rams might have gotten away with it. It might go foul.
But the ball struck the foul pole at the 310-foot mark for a three-run bomb that turned the game in Bryant’s favor and, with some clutch relief pitching from Coby Greiner, the Hornets won their season debut on Monday night.
Bryant is set to host Little Rock Christian today at 5 p.m., in a game that was originally a road contest.
In the bottom of the sixth, Logan Grant, who got out of a jam by recording the final two outs in the fifth, issued consecutive walks. Greiner got the call to relieve and induced what looked like a doubleplay ball. But the ball was booted, and the Rams had the bases loaded with no one out.
Ryan Robinson made a bid for an RBI hit with Bryant’s infield in. But second baseman Noah Davis made a diving catch of his liner for the first out as all the base-runners got back.
Greiner then worked to an 0-2 count on Ben Muldoon who sliced a liner to right. Grant hustled to the line and hauled it in and, because the lead runner at third had not tagged up, no one scored.
On the very next pitch, Jesus Minjaras grounded out to Austin Ledbetter at first for the final out.
In the seventh, Greiner struck out the first two batters, issued a walk then got the final out when Jordan Villas hit a chopper back to the mound.
“I put him in a tough spot,” acknowledged Hornets head coach Travis Queck. “I know what Coby Greiner’s going to do. I know he’s going to compete his butt off. I told him, if LG gets into a tough spot, we’re going to you. Little did I know we’d have bases loaded and no outs and survive that.”
The Hornets were held hitless over the first five innings by Lakeside’s Ethan Bates and Robinson. Bates fanned six of the nine he faced and retired the first six before giving up a walk to Grant.
But, with Grant trying to steal, Bates fanned Logan Catton and Grant was thrown out at second.
Robinson started the fourth and walked Logan Chambers but retired the next three on flyballs.
In the fifth, Gage Stark reached base on a third-strike wild pitch but was doubled-up when Davis grounded to second.
The Hornets’ first hit came in the bottom of the sixth.
By then, they trailed 3-0. Prince issued a walk to Catton to open the inning. With one out, he walked Chambers as well. That brought up Cade Drennan, who pulled a single into left, driving in Catton with Bryant’s first run.
With two down, Wright came to the plate. After his homer, Start singled but was stranded.
The Hornets only had one other knock, a one-out single by Greiner in the top of the seventh.
“I’m concerned,” Queck said of the hitting. “The first thing is, we haven’t seen that kind of velocity consistently enough. So, I’ve got to do something different. I’ve got to prepare them better.
“The second thing is, they go from some velo to a soft-tossing lefty,” he added. “Now, you’re changing your approach in the course of a game. The first game, that’s tough. They got us last year (in a 1-0 Rams win) doing the same dang thing.
“It was a good plan by them,” the coach acknowledged. “I’m not taking anything away from them but that’s all on me. I told them, ‘Guys, we’re going to go to work and figure out how to incorporate this and challenge ourselves a little bit.’ No excuses. We’ve got to get it fixed.”
Ledbetter started on the mound for Bryant and retired all six batters he faced, four on strikes. He needed just 19 pitches to get through two.
“I talked to my pitchers beforehand,” Queck said. “I want them to have the confidence to throw any pitch at any point. I thought Ledbetter did a heck of a job.”
Will McEntire came on in the third and hit the second batter he faced but, thanks to a leaping catch of a liner by Davis at second, the inning ending on a doubleplay.
In the fourth, Prince’s infield single was the first hit of the game. He was forced at second when Ethan Cevela grounded to Catton at third. With Cevela on the move, McEntire whirled to throw to second but his peg was wild, and the runner went to third. Bates lifted a sacrifice fly to left and Lakeside led 1-0.
The inning was extended with a walk to Justin Scott. Robinson reached on an error then the duo tried a double-steal, which actually worked until Scott, thinking the ball had gotten past Catton, jumped up and raced home.
But Catton had stopped the ball with a lunge and fired to Drennan at the plate for the out that retired the side.
In the fifth, Muldoon sliced a single to right, took second on a wild pitch but was then thrown out at third. Minjaras hit a grounder into the hole at short that ricocheted off Chambers’ glove but not far enough away that he couldn’t recover and fire to Catton in time to nab Bryce Aughenbaugh, who was in running for Muldoon the catcher.
McEntire got two strikes in on Chase Gentry, who then fouled off a pair of pitches before yanking a double into the gap in left-center. Minjaras scored. A single up the middle by Andrew Cox put runners at first and third.
Grant came on in relief but an errant pickoff throw cost a third run before he got Prince to line to shallow right where Stark made a sliding catch to end the inning.
I thought McEntire struggled a little bit,” acknowledged Queck. “He probably struggled with the movement aspect. Everything was just basically BP fastballs.
“And he’s frustrated with it,” the coach continued. “That’s good. That’s a good sign for us because now we can go to the drawing board and fix it.”
Grant then opened the sixth with a pair of walks, the first on a 3-2 pitch.
“I thought if LG could’ve gotten that first out, I think it would’ve been huge for him,” said Queck. “I don’t think he was missing by too much, too bad. It was just a little bit here and there. But it’s stuff we can go fix.”
The coach concluded by saying, “I told the team I’m proud of them for the win, but we’ve got to go to work. We had way too many mistakes.”