Like their softball counterparts, today the Bryant Hornets look to accomplish a rare feat in high school sports: back-to-back championships.
Bryant (23-6, 10-4 7A Central) takes on its conference foe, the Conway Wampus Cats, in the 7A State Finals at 5:30 p.m. at the University of Central Arkansas.
Bryant and Conway played twice during the regular season with both teams taking away a win. Along with Little Rock Catholic, all three teams were competing to be the best in the 7A Central. However, after splitting a doubleheader with the Rockets at the end of the season, Bryant came out on top with another conference championship.
To advance to the championship game, Bryant beat Catholic 7-6 Monday in the state tournament semifinals held in Fort Smith.
This season, head coach Kirk Bock has told his team they have to live up to the title of “defending champions,” which comes with an honorary target on their backs. To be the best, he said, “You have know how to play the game” and “you better be a good teammate and have team chemistry.”
So far they’ve lived up to his expectations, playing smart, solid fundamental baseball with one goal in mind: bringing back another title to Bryant.
Of course, Bock and his team know that can’t take anything for granted, and beating Conway in the teams’ rubber match won’t be an easy chore.
“Conway has some of the best players and coaches in the state, and what they do best is hit,” he said. “They can get deep in the count and still hit.”
Taking the mound for Bryant will be junior Jordan Taylor. In order to be successful, Bock said Taylor can’t give the Wampus Cats an inch with walks or passed balls.
“Keep them off balance and make them put it in play,” he said. “No free trips.”
Offensively, Bock said, “We need everyone to have productive at bats. We only get 21 outs, so when we get out we need something good to come out of it.”
That will especially apply to the top half of the starting lineup, including junior Tyler Wilson (shortstop), senior Tyler Brown (third), Taylor, senior Landon Pickett (first) and junior Dylan Cross (designated hitter).
The rest of the starting lineup includes senior Chris Joiner (left), junior Josh Pultro, (center) senior Evan Jobe (right) and sophomore Hayden Lessonberry (catcher).
Earlier this week Bock said the team doesn’t need any sort of major “overhall,” but mentioned his squad needed to tweak a few things at practice.
“We are working a little more in the outfield,” he said. “We need to keep runners to one bag at a time.”
Finally, when it’s time to take the field and go after that second-straight title, Bock said he’s going to tell his team what he always does.
“Boys, do what you do best: win.”