Seniors lead Hornets to win in extras

LITTLE ROCK – After storms on Friday, the Bryant Hornets’ game with the Little Rock Catholic Rockets was postponed until Saturday at Lamar Porter Field in Little Rock and the Hornets came away with a 3-1 extra-inning victory in 7A Central conference action.

Senior third baseman Jordan Taylor hit a two-run double over the center fielder’s head in the top of the eighth inning to break a 1-1 tie, and senior second baseman Ozzie Hurt made a fantastic defensive play in the bottom of the inning to end the game - not to overshadow senior starting pitcher Tyler Nelson’s stellar performance in what Bryant Coach Kirk Bock said was the best pitching performance he’s seen by a Hornet other than two perfect games.

“I’ve had two perfect games,” Bock said. “Ron Waters back in 1994 and Wells in 2010, and I was telling [Nelson] that may have been the best game besides those perfect games I’ve ever had. Pitch count was down and [he] just kept them off-stride.”

Nelson pitched all eight innings giving up an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth inning. He gave up two hits, one a pop up on the infield that was lost in the sun, and struck out four in just 87 pitches thrown. Not only was Nelson lights-out pitching, he went 2 for 2 at the plate, reached on a walk and was hit by a pitch.

“We made some plays behind him,” Bock said. “I thought it was a great performance. He had a great performance offensively too. We had four hits, and two of them were his. [It was] just a great individual effort and then a great team effort by just not spitting the bit. When it wasn’t going very well and we were struggling offensively, we just kept plugging away.”

After a ground out to start the top of the eighth inning with a 1-1 game, Nelson walked. Hurt hit into a fielder’s choice and senior Josh Pultro was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second for Taylor. Taylor did not disappoint as he took relief pitcher Conner Gilmore’s third pitch over the center fielder’s head for a two-run double, which ended up being the game-winner.

“We put Jordan, our senior, in a place to win it,” Bock said. “Even when he’s not doing well, that’s the guy that I want up there because I know what he’s can do. He’s been playing as a ninth-grader and he certainly does a great job.”

Facing the bottom of the order to begin the bottom of the eighth, Nelson induced a come-backer for the first out and struck out the next man. Leadoff man Allen Mays hit what looked like a routine grounder to Hurt at second base, but the ball took a horrible hop. Hurt had to jump up for the ball and grabbed it with his bare hand, throwing out Mays to the crowd’s delight.

“He’s pretty [darn] good,” Bock said of Hurt. “He’s the best I’ve ever had. In 23 years, he’s the best infielder I’ve ever had. He doesn’t have the strongest arm and he’s not the quickest guy, but he’s got the best dad gum glove and just makes plays like that every [game].”

The Hornets (19-4, 8-2 7A Central) struck first in the top of the third inning when sophomore Trevor Ezell reached on a walk. Ezell was erased on junior Tyler Green’s fielder’s choice to third base. Catholic starter Patrick Gurley’s pick-off attempt was dropped by the first baseman when Green was attempting to steal second, and Green moved to third base on the error. Green came in on a wild pitch to give Bryant a 1-0 lead.

The Rockets scored an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth when Matt Morris reached on an error by the third baseman, went to second on a sacrifice bunt and took third on a wild pitch. Morris scored on an RBI ground out by Zac Pinter to tie the game at 1-1, but that was all Catholic could muster.

The Hornets take on Monticello today in Bryant before hosting Van Buren Thursday and traveling to Russellville on Friday in conference action. First pitch today is scheduled for 4 p.m.