When the Hornets and Lady Hornets step onto the diamond today, both teams will be battling for a second straight state championship — a feat scarcely seen.
And if you ask either coach about the other’s team, you’re bound to hear similar words of respect and admiration.
Baseball head coach Kirk Bock said, “We’re pretty good, but they’re really good,” adding that softball head coach Debbie Clark “does a tremendous job with those girls.”
Clark said Bock, who brought his team to watch the Lady Hornets in the semifinals last year, is not only a great coach but also a great example of Bryant’s community spirit.
“That’s the kind of comroadery we have,” she said. “I respect coach Bock and his coaching ability. He has a proven track record ... and he’s been unbelievable to me.”
The Hornets (21-6, 10-4) play at noon in Fort Smith, and the Lady Hornets (21-6, 12-2) play at 1:45 p.m. in Bentonville. With wins today and Monday, both Bryant teams would advance to the championship games Saturday, May 21, with the boys game held in Conway and girls’ in Fayetteville.
When asked about the possibility of both teams giving the school back-to-back championships, Clark said, “It’s incredible.
“I get chill bumps and could cry about it,” she said. “It’s unbelievable that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of this.”
While the Hornets go into their tournament a No. 1 seed after winning the 7A Central, the Lady Hornets are a No. 2 seed after finishing second in the conference behind North Little Rock, who handed Bryant its only two conference losses of the year.
“Sometimes being undefeated is overrated,” Clark said. “This whole season we were always looking here to the state tournament. We just have to take it one pitch at a time.”
She said, “We start a new season Saturday.”
Clark said, although the Lady Hornets only lost six games this year, each one made the team stronger.
“I’ve seen a lot of unity,” she said. “I’m a much better coach for the season we’ve had. It’s been a struggle, as far as mentally.”
Clark said the team at times has felt the pressure of being the defending state champions, as well as the target on the back that comes with the title.
“I’ve not liked our mental consistently all year, but we’ve battled thought illnesses and weather, being led by juniors,” she said. “I know what I expect. ... They’ve given me everything this year.”
Clark said, “We have a lot of talent, and we have heart. The only thing that will get in our way is between our ears.”