For the second straight year, the Bryant Lady Hornets are coming home with a 7A State Championship trophy.
Bryant beat North Little Rock 11-1 Saturday in Fayetteville behind an outstanding pitching performance from Peyton Jenkins, who was named Most Valuable Player — also for the second year in a row.
Jenkins didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning. She ended the day with 10 strikeouts, giving up one unearned run on three hits.
Jenkins, who battled through sickness during the last weeks of the season, said she was surprised to be named the game's MVP. "But I'm very happy that I got it," she said.
Head coach Debbie Clark, who's been known to inspire her teams before games with unusual motivational tactics, said this year she "worked on the girls becoming more responsible for their emotions and their motivation."
So, Friday night she had her players weave together a rope with yarn and twine. Saturday morning, the Lady Hornets arrived at Bogle Park on the University of Arkansas campus with the rope and kept it in the dugout during the game.
"When we get back and get everything settled, I will cut off a piece of the rope for each of them," she said.
Asked if she thought her squad would beat North Little Rock by such a wide margin, Clark said, "In my dreams."
The Lady Charging Wildcats handed Bryant its only two conference losses during the season, winning the 7A Central in the process.
"They're a great team with a great coach," she said.
North Little Rock head coach Anthony Cantrell said his team's seven fielding errors hurt the Lady Charging Wildcats throughout the game.
"Hats off to Bryant. They beat us and were the better team today," he said. "You can't make seven errors and expect to beat a good team. They put the ball in play, and we didn't make the plays when we needed to make the plays."
In last year's and this year's championship games, the Lady Hornets scored a combined total of 24 runs.
Clark said, "They're beasts, and I love 'em."
North Little Rock scored its only run in the first inning after Tiffany Roby reached base on an error and made her way to third off a steal and wild pitch. Callie Simmons, who started pitching for the Lady Charging Wildcats, then popped up. McKenzie Rice caught the ball but hit Roby, who tagged up, when she tried to throw the ball home, allowing Roby an easy score.
Down 1-0, the Lady Hornets scored two runs in the top of the second inning. Jenna Bruick singled to bring in Kaley Coppock from second. Later with bases loaded, Jessie Taylor walked, which brought in Ashley Chaloner and gave Bryant a 2-1 lead.
The Lady Hornets scored two more in the third, the first coming off a Carly Yazza double that brought home Cassidy Wilson. Bruick then hit another RBI off an error by the North Little Rock third baseman, making the score 4-1.
After a scoreless fourth inning, Bryant scored four run in the fifth. Bruick brought in the first — her third RBI of the game — with a single to centerfield that plated Coppock. Taylor then hit the ball to the third baseman, who made an error and allowed Yazza to score. Bruick then scored from third on a wild pitch, and Taylor scored when Jenkins reached base off an error by the left fielder.
Ahead 8-1 in the seventh inning, Bryant scored three more. Kaya Sory doubled to bring in Jenkins, who had singled. Then, Wilson brought in Sory and Coppock brought home Wilson.
Coppock was 3-5 with three runs scored and one RBI. Bruick was 2-6 with three RBIs, reaching twice on errors.
Kayla Sory was 2-5 with a double, single and walk, as well as an RBI and run scored. Chaloner was 2-5 with a run, and Yazza was 2-5 with a walk and one RBI.
In all, the Lady Hornets stranded 13 runners on base.