Lady Hornets win 25th straight

NORTH LITTLE ROCK – The defending state champion Bryant Lady Hornets ran their winning streak to 25 games, dating to last year, with an 8-1 7A Central conference victory over the North Little Rock Lady Cats on Friday at Lady Cat Field at Burns Park in North Little Rock.

“Big conference win,” Bryant Coach Debbie Clark said. “It’s my first time as [Bryant’s] coach to beat [North Little Rock] here. It’s a big coaching win for me. I told them thank you. They didn’t know that before the game, but that was big for me.”

Not that Clark hasn’t had other big wins as the Lady Hornets are two-time defending state champions and are undefeated with a 22-0 record this year and a 7-0 conference record. The Lady Hornets will host the state tournament this year from May 11-15.

It looked to be a pitcher’s duel early on as the Lady Hornets missed chances in the first two innings. Bryant left the bases loaded in the first and junior third baseman McKenzie Rice was thrown out at home for the third out in the second inning as Lady Cat pitcher Katy Kinnison was holding the Lady Hornets in check.

“Their pitcher did a good job of keeping [us] off balance for a little bit,” Clark said. “We just get so anxious because we love to hit the ball.”

On the other side of the circle, Bryant senior starting pitcher Peyton Jenkins gave up a single to center field with one out in the bottom of the second inning, but Emily Bullock was erased on a double play when Rice caught a short pop up and caught Bullock off of first base for the double play.

Jenkins proceeded to face the minimum retiring the next 12 Lady Cats in order, including striking out the side in the bottom of the sixth, before walking Morgan Seaton to lead off the bottom of the seventh.

The Lady Hornets put three runs on the board in the top of the third when senior catcher Jessie Taylor picked up an infield single and senior center fielder Kayla Sory followed with a single to center. Freshman pinch runner Mercedes Dillard and Sory scored when North Little Rock made defensive miscues and sophomore Kaley Coppock, who reached on a single, scored on a error by the third baseman to give Bryant a 3-0 lead after three.

Sophomore Katy Stillman was hit by a pitch to start the top of the sixth and Rice doubled her to third with one out. Senior leadoff Jenna Bruick singled home Stillman and Rice scored on a Jenkins ground out to the pitcher. With Bruick advancing to third on the throw, Sory made it a 6-0 Lady Hornets lead with a single to right field.

“We put the ball in play,” Clark said. “It’s a great win on the road. I’ll take it every time.”

Jenkins ended up giving up her only run in the bottom of the seventh off of her only walk. Lydia Belew sacrifice bunted Seaton to second and McKinze Escovedo singled Seaton to third where she scored on a fielder’s choice to the shortstop. Jenkins struck out Ashton Bobbitt on a high fast ball to end the game. Jenkins finished the game giving up one run on two hits and a walk, and struck out nine.

Taylor, Sory and Rice each had two hits for the Lady Hornets with Rice adding two runs and the game’s only double. Rice also played good defense in the win.

The Lady Hornets played Mansfield and Farmington on Saturday in Farmington, Ark., and will return to conference play when Bryant hosts Little Rock Central on Thursday.