FAYETTEVILLE - The Bryant Lady Hornets completed their undefeated seasaon with an 8-4 win against the Bentonville Lady Tigers to win the 7A State Championship on Saturday at Bogle Park in Fayetteville. The Lady Hornets finish 34-0, extend their winning streak to 37 games dating back to last season, not to mention winning their third consecutive 7A State Title game.
“You never know how you’re going to react and here I am crying like a baby,” an emotional Bryant Coach Debbie Clark said. “It was hard. It was hard-fought. It’s been so emotional this week. They fought so hard and I’m so proud. It’s a great day to be a Lady Hornet.”
A big reason why Clark was so emotional, besides the fact the Lady Hornets had just won their third straight championship, was because senior star pitcher Peyton Jenkins didn’t get to finish the season she started leading Bryant to perfection.
Jenkins suffered a knee injury in the semifinals and freshman left-handed pitcher Jordan Williams relieved her and finished the 7-0 shutout against Springdale Har-Ber.
Williams started the championship game against the Lady Tigers, but was replaced by Jenkins, who was wearing a knee brace, after one pitch in the bottom of the first inning.
Jenkins would walk two, but didn’t allow a run, while striking out one. Jenkins, though, would not pitch again, but did help out offensively.
In the top of the first inning, Lady Hornet leadoff, senior Jenna Bruick, reached on an infield single, Jenkins walked, and senior catcher Jessie Taylor would foul out to the catcher.
Senior center fielder Kayla Sory picked up the slack and singled to left field to score Bruick, and Brittney Ball, who ran for Jenkins, scored on senior shortstop Cassidy Wilson’s line out to left field for a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 Bryant lead.
Sophomore first baseman Kaley Coppock doubled to center field to score Sory, and Coppock scored on junior left fielder Carly Yazza’s single to center for an early 4-0 lead for the Lady Hornets.
The Lady Hornets did not stop their scoring there as they picked up three more runs in the top of the second inning.
Bruick tripled when her hit to left field took a bad bounce and scored on Jenkins’ single to make it 5-0. Pinch runner Kayla Jolley made a base-running error on Taylor’s single to left field and was thrown out at third base for the second out, but Sory followed with a two-run home run to left field to put Bryant up 7-0 after two innings.
Bryant would go up 8-0 when sophomore Katy Stillman reached on an infield single and scored from first on junior third baseman McKenzie Rice’s double to center field.
Williams held the Lady Tigers scoreless until the fourth inning when an RBI double by Jordan Taylor and two-run home run by Kate Lacina got Bentonville within 8-3.
Williams was lights out the next two innings throwing a total of 16 pitches in the fifth and sixth inning after throwing 29 in the fourth. She did give up another run in the seventh, but the Lady Hornets celebrated their third consecutive title when Stillman caught the last out in right field.
“Is that not some growing up for her,” Clark said of Williams.
“We prepared her all week. She’s a lefty, which gives her a little bit of an advantage anyway. To go and face a team like this with this kind of pressure on her back, I’m so excited as a coach. Her teammates backed her up and they knew when the home run was hit, they went out and said it was OK. Jessie told her to keep the ball low.”
Taylor was named the Most Valuable Player after going 3 for 4 in the championship and 6 for 9 with a home run and three RBIs in the State Tournament.
“Jessie Taylor, the MVP, you ought to see the books that she has, her scouting report,” Clark said. [She had] a 32 on the ACT. She’s so smart and gifted and she told the girls, ‘I don’t study, but I studied.’”
Williams finished the game giving up four runs on seven hits in six innings for the win. She struck out four without walking a batter.
Sory led the Lady Hornets with a 3 for 4 day, scoring two runs and knocking in three including her home run in the second inning.
Bruick went 2 for 4 with two runs scored and Coppock went 2 for 4 with a run and RBI. Yazza, Stillman and Rice each went 1 for 3 and Jenkins finished 1 for 2 with an RBI.
Clark spoke of the pressures of being undefeated.
“We’ve been undefeated and that takes a toll on you as a coach,” she said.
“I try to keep them focused on one game at a time. At the same time, it’s still in the back of your mind. We had a target on our back and I like that. I would much rather be the one that everyone wants to beat.”
Clark also spoke of her senior, who have been to the championship game three years now.
“They weren’t going to panic,” Clark said of her seniors.
“They kept playing to win. And they’re such leaders, the shortstop Cassidy Wilson stepped up and took over and said, ‘Guys, c’mon.’ She’s my coach on the field. That’s part of my emotion because I know they’re not going to be with us anymore, but I also know it’s time. They’ve paid their dues and they’ve left such a legacy for Bryant softball.”
But, with the joy that comes with winning the State Championship, Clark had a really tough time not getting to see Jenkins, who came out after popping up in the fourth inning, finish the game.
“We wanted to see how well her knee was holding up and she’s worked so hard,” Clark said of letting her pitch in the first inning.
“I wanted to give her a chance because it was terrible that she got injured. I can’t explain why things happen. I’ve been sick all week for her because I know how hard she works. Today has been bittersweet. It’s been one of the hardest days of my life – and one of the happiest.”View more articles in: