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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 â€śdefending champions,â€ť which comes with an honorary target on their backs. To be the best, he said, â€śYou have know how to play the gameâ€ť and â€śyou better be a good teammate and have team chemistry.â€ť
So far theyâ€™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 canâ€™t take anything for granted, and beating Conway in the teamsâ€™ rubber match wonâ€™t be an easy chore.
â€śConway has some of the best players and coaches in the state, and what they do best is hit,â€ť he said. â€śThey can get deep in the count and still hit.â€ť
Taking the mound for Bryant will be junior Jordan Taylor. In order to be successful, Bock said Taylor canâ€™t give the Wampus Cats an inch with walks or passed balls.
â€śKeep them off balance and make them put it in play,â€ť he said. â€śNo free trips.â€ť
Offensively, Bock said, â€śWe 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.â€ť
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 doesnâ€™t need any sort of major â€śoverhall,â€ť but mentioned his squad needed to tweak a few things at practice.
â€śWe are working a little more in the outfield,â€ť he said. â€śWe need to keep runners to one bag at a time.â€ť
Finally, when itâ€™s time to take the field and go after that second-straight title, Bock said heâ€™s going to tell his team what he always does.
â€śBoys, do what you do best: win.â€ť