Small ball prevailed Saturday morning for the Bryant Lady Hornets as they advanced to the finals of the Tournament of Champions held in North Little Rock.
The defending 7A State Champions beat Foreman, the defending 2A-7 Champions, 1-0 thanks to fast base running and a roll of the dice.
Bryant (6-1, 1-0 7A Central) played Mountain Home, defending 6A State Champions, in the finals Saturday night at Burns Park. However, the results of the tournament championship were not available by press time.
With the morning game tied 0-0 in the sixth inning, Hannah Rice, the last batter in the Lady Hornets’ lineup, came to bat.
Head coach Debbie Clark said, “She’s really fast, and she and I have a special signal for her to bunt for a hit. She’ll wait as long as she can to square around.”
With two strikes, Clark gave Rice the signal.
“I’m the type of coach that believes if you give her the signal the first two times, you might as well give it to her again,” she said.
Clark said Foreman’s pitcher “had a great changeup, and we were struggling the whole game.”
In fact, she said, “There weren’t very many hits on either side.”
Clark said, “We weren’t hitting the ball well. We just needed to get it in play.”
Rice, who had struck out during every other at bat, laid down a bunt and safely reached first base. Then Jenna Bruick came up to bat, and a wild pitch allowed Rice to advance to second base, putting her in scoring position with no outs.
Clark gave Bruick the bunt signal, and she laid down the sacrifice, allowing Rice to advance to third with one out.
“Then I decided to really roll the dice,” Clark said.
The head coach gave Rice and the next batter, Cassidy Wilson, the squeeze signal.
“She laid down the most beautiful bunt down the first base line,” Clark said.
Although Wilson was thrown out at first, Rice came home to score what would be the only run of the game as the Lady Hornets went on to win 1-0.
It was the same score of Bryant’s victory Friday against defending 5A Champions Greenbrier.
Peyton Jenkins pitched both shutouts for the Lady Hornets.
“She did really well,” Clark said, adding, “although she hit more girls than ever.”
Clark said Jenkins beaned five batters and walked several more because the Foreman batters were intentionally “right on top of the plate.”
“In one inning, she walked one and hit two people, loading the bases,” Clark said. “But we got out of it.”
She said, “We played great defense. McKenzie Rice (Hannah Rice’s twin sister) made some great plays for us at third.”