Tim Cooper has been a member of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sports department since October 1988 and began reporting on high school sports full time in 1993. Cooper, a native of Malvern, attended Henderson State University and worked three years as a sports writer at the Paris News in Paris, Texas, from 1985 to 1988.
Putting clamps on champs
Bryant (33-2) dominates Fayetteville (31-4) in every facet
Bryant starter Blaine Knight delivers a pitch against Fayetteville during the first inning Friday, May 23, 2014, of the Class 7A state baseball championship game at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Bryant's good Knight made it a bad day for Fayetteville.
Blaine Knight, a junior right-hander, limited defending state champion Fayetteville to four singles, and Bryant banged out 12 hits on its way to a shocking 10-0 six-inning victory over Fayetteville in the Class 7A championship game at Baum Stadium.
Fayetteville entered Friday's game on a 17-game winning streak and with a team batting average .325, but the Bulldogs (31-4) ran into a Bryant ace who has been masterful all season long.
"When he pitches, he's the best around," Bryant Coach Kirk Bock said of Knight. "When he just throws, he's mediocre. But he's learned how to pitch this year."
Knight (11-0) completes the season with a 0.43 ERA, having allowed 4 earned runs and 36 hits in 65.2 innings. In 13 innings of state tournament play, the 6-1 right-hander allowed no runs and eight hits.
Friday's shutout was the 15th for the Bryant pitching staff this season. The Hornets (33-2) finished the season with three consecutive four-hit shutouts, all in the state tournament. But pitching wasn't the only friend the Hornets had on Friday.
Eight Bryant players had at least one hit and five of them managed to drive in at least one run.
"We couldn't have done this without pitching and defense," said Bryant senior first baseman Dalton Holt, who was 3 for 3 with a two-run home run.. "Our offense doesn't always hit like this."
Said Bock, "Offense comes and goes. Today it came and it worked out pretty good for us."
Friday's offense came against two of the most accomplished pitchers in the state. Andy Pagnozzi and Kyle Pate entered the state tournament having allowed a combined 7 earned runs all season. Bryant scored seven earned runs against those two on Friday.
Pagnozzi, who lost for the first time all season, walked three.
"So my command was obviously off," Pagnozzi said. "But even when I made good pitches, they hit it. They did a great job. They earned it, for sure."
"Bryant did an excellent job hitting the ball," Fayetteville Coach Vance Arnold said. "... It seemed like they were always in scoring position."
Bryant took a 1-0 lead in the first when Trevor Ezell walked, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored on Chase Tucker's single. But the Hornets had a runner thrown out at the plate and left two runners stranded, which was cause for some concern for Bock.
"They stopped us in the first inning," Bock said. "They made a great adjustment, a great play and I thought that might come back to haunt us. But once our kids smelt a little blood, they got back on them."
Fayetteville lead-off batter Kyle Pate lined a two-strike pitch into right for a single. He moved to second on a throwing error.
The Bulldogs' rally died when Alan Dunn and Grant Koch popped out and Cody Davenport's hard-hit grounder was handled easily by third baseman Brandon Warner.
"That was big. It set the tone for the game," said Knight, who finished with five strikeouts and four walks. "Our scoring in the first helped us out, at least it helped me out. It gave me some confidence and helped me relax."
Fayetteville unraveled in the second, committing two errors which led to three unearned runs.
Back-to-back singles by Holt and Korey Thompson chased Pagnozz in the third inning. Then, Tipton singled off Pate with two out to drive in Holt for a 5-0 Bryant lead.
Back-to-back doubles by Ezell and Tipton increased the Hornets' lead to 7-0 in the fifth.
Blake Patterson drove in a run with a double and later in the inning Holt hit his first home run of the season over the left-center fence for his third hit of the day.
"I just saw the ball well today," said Holt, who entered the game with a .227 batting average. "I wanted to jump on fastballs and get on them early."
Holt reached base four times, with two singles, a home run and once after getting hit by a pitch.
"That's a great game for him as a senior," Bock said of Holt, who is receiving some attention from college programs. "Maybe someone will pull the trigger on him now."
Fayetteville had three hits in the first two innings, but the Bulldogs left the bases loaded in the second when Knight got Pate to ground out to Thompson at second base. The Bulldogs did not get another hit until the seventh when Drew Tyler singled. The rally died when Connor Shaw flew out to deep center field to end the game.
"I've got a defense behind me that's No. 1 in the country," Knight said. "I wouldn't trade them for the world."
Sports on 05/24/2014