Three Bryant Lady Hornet softball players all signed letters of intent to play at their respective colleges late Thursday morning in front of about 150 people in Love Auditorium on the Bryant High School campus.
The three players, Peyton Jenkins, Kayla Sory and Jessie “The Beast” Taylor, could have had their own separate, special days to sign their letters, but the old friends wouldn’t think of it.
“These girls would not hear discussion about three separate days,” Bryant softball Coach Debbie Clark said. “They told me they had grown up together and shared everything, even mononucleosis. They had dreamed about this day since they were little girls.
In her third year at Bryant, Clark said she is always honored to have a player have an opportunity to continue their softball career at the collegiate level, “but to have three from one team in one year is amazing. Today is a big deal. You three are a big deal.”
Jenkins signed with Central Baptist College in Conway and is an all-state pitcher. Jenkins had an 11-2 record this past season for a team that went 25-6 overall and 12-2 in the 7A Central. In 153 innings pitched, Jenkins struck out 218 batters and had a 1.14 earned-run average (ERA).
“It was very exciting, overwhelming excitement,” Jenkins said. “I’m really happy and 10 times more to do it with my two like blood sisters, best friends, that I will always have and they will always be there for me. We’ve been doing this together for 13 years now.
“I’m super excited and there is a lot of emotion today and it was good to realize that we’re taking it to the next level and starting a new softball career and getting our education paid for.”
Jenkins, who will major in biology at CBC, plans to be an orthodontist and said CBC was the best fit for her.
“I kind of looked,” she said about other colleges, “but none of them were really comfortable and didn’t click with me. CBC really clicked with me. I was comfortable, liked it there and liked the atmosphere.”
Sory, an all-state tournament selection this past season, signed with Henderson State University and played first base, center field and pitcher. Clark said Sory was her ultimate utility player. Sory had a .413 average last season with a .471 on-base percentage and a .609 slugging percentage. She hit two home runs and knocked in 22 RBIs.
“[It’s] very relieving because I don’t have to worry and stress about ‘am I going to get signed; am I going to be able to go to the next level,’” Sory said. “I’m just going to enjoy senior year. I thought it really meant a lot that we all got to sign together because we have all been together since we were 6-years-old. Coach wasn’t lying when she said we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Sory, who plans to major in pre-physical therapy at Henderson, said she considered other colleges, but HSU just felt right.
“I was considering some other schools,” Sory said. “I was actually talking to the CBC coach and [Arkansas] Tech and a school in Alabama. When I went out on my visit to Henderson and got to meet the girls and everything, I felt at home. I knew Henderson is where I wanted to go for a long time.”
Jessie Taylor, dubbed “The Beast” by Clark, signed with the University of Central Arkansas. Taylor was an all-state selection and all-state tournament selection while playing catcher. She hit .485 with a .545 on-base percentage. Taylor hit 12 home runs, 11 doubles and had 44 RBIs with 38 runs scored.
“I’m excited,” Taylor said. “All day I’ve been nervous and kind of just wanted it to get here. I wanted to get it done because everything that we ever worked for is coming together now.
“Like all those years that we were traveling out of state has finally paid off. We’re signing and getting our college paid for, which is a big deal. It feels really good to be around friends and family.”
Taylor decided on UCA because the school has a good biology program, her major, and she wanted to stay close to home.
“I wanted to stay in state because I have younger siblings,” Taylor said. “My little sister (12) is doing dance and I don’t want to miss her dance. My little brother is 4 and he’s got tee ball and basketball and I wanted to watch them grow up.”
According to Clark, Bryant is 74-16 the last three years, have won three consecutive conference championships and two consecutive state championships. Clark addressed the Bryant freshmen softball players.
“Freshmen, I want you to look at these young ladies sitting here,” she said. “They are an incredible example of what can happen if you work at it. They’re not only incredible softball players, they also have tremendous grades. They’re going to be paid pretty much to go to college. This is what can happen if you want it to happen.”
“I’m proud,” Clark continued. “We can have fun today, but after today, it’s back to work for a three-peat.”