Lady Hornets defeat Searcy in TOC final

NORTH LITTLE ROCK – The Bryant Lady Hornets had no trouble in the Tournament of Champions held at Burns Park in North Little Rock, outscoring their opponents 38-1 and defeating Searcy 16-1 in the championship game on Saturday night. After getting warmed up in an 8-0 win against Hope in the first round, the Lady Hornets beat Foreman 14-0 before the Searcy win.

“They played really well,” Bryant Coach Debbie Clark said. “We crushed the ball. This is the tournament of champs, so that’s all the champs from last year in all the classifications, or the runner-up. North Little Rock hosts it so they always play in it.

Clark explained that most teams graduated their seniors from the previous year so it was understandable that some teams may be weaker than they were last year, but it is always good competition.

“I had all mine (players) back and it was obvious that we had all of ours back,” Clark said of her defending state champions.

Against Foreman, junior McKenzie Rice went 3 for 3 with three runs and three RBIs, sophomore Kaley Coppock went 3 for 3 with a run and an RBI, and senior catcher Jessie Taylor hit a grand slam in the fourth inning accounting for four of the eight runs in the the inning.

The Lady Hornets (10-0, 1-0 7A Central) got off to a slow start against Foreman, only getting four runs through the first three innings, but exploded in the fourth with eight.

“The Foreman pitcher was a little bit slower so it took us a couple of innings to really jump on her,” Clark said. “But Searcy, we jumped on her in the first inning.

That Bryant did as the Lady Hornets scored four in the first against Searcy and senior starting pitcher Peyton Jenkins hit a leadoff home run in the bottom of the second on the way to another eight-run inning.

“It doesn’t matter in our lineup,” Clark said of the Lady Hornets’ firepower. “It can be our leadoff. Leadoff can hit a home run and Peyton is leading off for us now. My No. 8 hitter against Nashville hit a home run. We have got firepower all through that lineup. People in this area need to come watch these girls play. I don’t know that we’ll have this kind of firepower all together at once again.”

Rice, sophomore Katy Stillman, senior Cassidy Wilson, Taylor and Jenkins each had two hits for the Lady Hornets, with Wilson adding three runs and four RBIs, and Jenkins adding four RBIs as well.

Jenkins may have hit well, but she pitched better. In the three games at the Tournament of Champions, Jenkins gave up one run in 16 innings (0.56 earned-run average), giving up just six hits and two walks, while striking out 31. That is 17.4 strikeouts per nine innings.

Even though the Lady Hornets have won two state championships in a row, Clark said this team shows more composure than the last two.

“It’s so nice because this year I’m seeing a calmness about them,” she said. “Searcy scored first off of two blooper hits. It’s not anything they did spectacular. Peyton just hit where they had their bat. Nobody could get to it.

“Even though we were down 1-0, it was no big deal to them because there is just that calmness this year. They’re comfortable with each other on the field. They trust each other and it’s a coaches’ dream. I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.”

After their tournament win, the Lady Hornets are doing a camp today at Bishop Park until 4 p.m. and will be at Arkansas Children’s Hospital tomorrow from 9 a.m. till noon picking up trash, planting trees and pulling weeds.

“Whatever they need us to do,” Clark said. “I believe the girls need to learn to give back to their community. I believe they need to appreciate circumstances they have in life even though they’re not perfect. They need to learn about serving others.”

Bryant is off the rest of spring break and will pick up play against Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday, March 27, in Bryant.