VAN BUREN – The Bryant Lady Hornets’ softball team had a rollercoaster of a weekend in west Arkansas. After routing Van Buren 17-0 in 7A Central conference action on Thursday, the Lady Hornets then played six games in two days in the Van Buren Invitational on Friday and Saturday. Bryant won all six games to carry on its undefeated season to improve to 18-0 overall and 3-0 in conference play. All invitational games were limited to 70 minutes because of the number of games and time constraints.
“We had a good tournament,” Bryant Coach Debbie Clark said. “Winning is always good.
“We went to this tournament to see teams that we don’t play on a regular basis, especially the West schools. We arrived at the tournament on Friday for the 3:30 games and softball class. We divided the players into four groups and provided them with scouting reports. They had to watch their assigned game and complete their assignment. We were able to scout Russellville, Rogers, [Springdale] Har-Ber and Bentonville. The players not only need to be able to “play” the game, they need to be students of the game.”
In their first invitational game on Friday, a 13-1 rout of the Atkins Lady Red Devils, the Lady Hornets hit three home runs including a grand slam by sophomore Katy Stillman to account for all four of Bryant’s runs in the fourth inning. Stillman finished 2 for 3 with four RBIs while teammates, sophomore Kaley Coppock and senior Peyton Jenkins also hit round-trippers. The two each went 2 for 3 with three RBIs, while senior leadoff Jenna Bruick went 2 for 2 with two runs scored.
Jenkins started pitching for the Lady Hornets and struck out two giving up a hit in one inning, but due to the heavy workload expected and the fact Bryant scored nine runs in the top of the first inning, allowed for freshman Jordan Williams to relieve. Williams pitched three innings, gave up four hits and struck out six with a walk.
Then came the Alma Lady Airedales later on in the day. The Lady Hornets dispensed of Alma 11-1 scoring three runs in the second inning and eight runs in the third. Jenkins pitched all three inningd for Bryant giving up a run and two hits, while striking out six, including five in a row. Senior catcher Jessie Taylor got into the home run act, hitting a two-run shot in the eight-run third and finishing 2 for 2. Senior Cassidy Wilson also hit a home run going 2 for 3 with two RBIs and though Coppock didn’t put one over the fence this time, she did go 3 for 3 with two runs. Stillman continued her hot hitting going 2 for 3 with three RBIs.
Winning their previous three games by an average score of 13.7 to 0.7, the routing stopped for the Lady Hornets in their first game on Saturday. Bryant squeaked by the Vilonia Lady Eagles 1-0 on a Taylor home run in the bottom of the fourth. Jenkins silenced the Lady Eagles’ bats as she threw a no-hitter, walking two in five innings and striking out eight.
Clark said Bryant hit several to the outfield, but Vilonia’s center fielder is one of the best she has ever seen and the Lady Hornets couldn’t get any to fall as they were limited to just three hits themselves.
“Vilonia played a great game against us and helped us become a better team,” Clark said. “My niece is their assistant coach and pitching coach. She called a great game. She knew our hitting strengths and weaknesses.
“Her pitcher did not overpower us, but she pitched smart against us and hit her spots. She said that just losing 1-0 to us was a mental victory for them and she really hopes she can get her team to understand how “big” they played and how big that game was for them.”
After a close one against Vilonia, the Lady Hornets continued their routing ways and took down Fort Smith Southside 11-2 in their second game on Saturday. Bruick went 3 for 4 with two runs, Jenkins went 2 for 4, Taylor was 1 for 3 with two RBIs and senior Kayla Sory went 2 for 3. Junior Carly Yazza went 2 for 2, Stillman went 2 for 2 with two runs and two RBIs, and junior McKenzie Rice was 2 for 3 with two RBIs.
Jenkins started and pitched three shutout innings giving up a hit and striking out four and Williams relieved and gave up two runs on two hits and two walks, and struck out two in one inning.
Jenkins pitched her second shutout and no-hitter in the invitational the next game in a 12-0, three-inning, perfect-game win against conference foe Russellville. Jenkins struck out four and the Lady Hornets scored all 12 runs in the second inning. Bruick again had three hits, going 3 for 3 with two runs, Jenkins was 2 for 3 with two RBIs, Sory was 2 for 2 with an RBI, Coppock was 1 for 2 with two RBIs, Yazza was 2 for 2 with two runs, and Stillman and Rice each went 2 for 2 with two runs and two RBIs apiece.
The Lady Hornets met up with Vilonia again in Bryant’s last game of the invitational, the third time they have gone against one another this season, and had an easier time this time around. Bryant defeated the Lady Eagles 5-1, scoring one run in the second inning and three in the fourth. Jenkins gave up four hits and a run in four innings, walking one and striking out two. Bruick contributed her third three-hit game in a row going 3 for 3, Taylor hit her third home run of the invitational going 1 for 2, Coppock was 2 for 2 with two runs and an RBI, and Stillman hit her second home run, going 1 for 2 with two RBIs.
“We saw many different speeds of pitchers and were forced to make adjustments at the plate,” Clark said. “We really emphasized laser-beam focus this weekend. The players must learn to relax mentally in between pitches and yet, on the pitch, be able to expect the ball to be hit to them. Softball is a hurry up and wait sport.
“We went to win and we did, and matured along the way. We have to stay in “Beast Mode” and compete against ourselves and take care of business.”
“Beast Mode” continues after a very short turnaround. After getting just Sunday off, the Lady Hornets take on Sylvan Hills today at 4:30 in Sherwood.