On a Mission: Lady Hornets end regular season undefeated

BRYANT – The Bryant Lady Hornets ended the regular season on Tuesday night at Lady Hornet Field the only way they are accustomed to doing it this year – with a win. The Lady Hornets routed the North Little Rock Lady Cats 13-0 on Senior Night leaving no doubt that Bryant means business going into the State tournament, Which starts Thursday at Lady Hornet Field.

Bryant finished the regular season undefeated at 31-0 and 14-0 in the 7A Central conference and are currently on a 34-game win streak dating to last season. The Lady Hornets look to extend the winning streak for three more games as it would net Bryant’s third consecutive State Championship.

Bryant Coach Debbie Clark was very emotional as she talked about her seniors.

“There are no words,” Clark said with tears streaming down her face. “What do you say about a group of girls? Battled through a whole lot, accepted me three years ago and bought into my philosophy. They made me feel right at home. It’s been incredible.

“I’m just so honored that the Bryant School District administration saw fit to bring me here and let me be a part of this. It’s absolutely incredible and it’s a great day to be a Lady Hornet.”

Starting all eight seniors, the game was scoreless for the first two innings as Bryant senior starting pitcher Peyton Jenkins was perfect until a third-inning leadoff error put a runner on first base. That would be the only Lady Cat to reach all game as Jenkins pitched a complete-game (five innings) no-hitter for her 31st win of the year. Jenkins struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter.

After the error in the third, senior catcher Jessie Taylor made a fantastic diving play to catch a short foul out behind her and then Jenkins struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning.

Bryant put four runs on the board with one swing in the bottom of the third. Junior McKenzie Rice reached on a one-out single and sophomore Katy Stillman got on with an infield single. Rice was erased on sophomore Kaley Coppock’s fielder’s choice and senior Jenna Bruick singled to center field to load the bases for Jenkins. Jenkins took the third pitch of the at bat just fair over the left-field fence for a grand slam to tie the state record for most home runs in a season by a team. The Lady Hornets would break the record the next inning.

Senior Kayla Sory reached on an error to start the bottom of the fourth and was sacrifice bunted to second base by senior Cassidy Wilson. Junior Carly Yazza walked to put two on for Rice. Rice, who hadn’t hit a home run all season, hit an opposite-field shot over the right-center field fence for a three-run home run to break the team record for home runs in a season, with the new record now 36.

“Tonight, to tie the home run record and then break it,” Clark started. “Our No. 9 hitter, McKenzie Rice, you can’t write stories like that. It’s magical. That tells what these girls are and what they do. They work hard.”

The Lady Hornets would add six more runs in the inning and Jenkins struck out 3 of the last 4 batters, including the last one on a high fast ball to end the game.

Not only have the Lady Hornets broken the season home run record, but they have also broken the season record in runs, doubles, RBIs, average and slugging percentage.

Jenkins accompanied her no-hitter with a 2 for 3 day with five RBIs, Rice went 2 for 3 with three RBIs, Wilson went 1 for 2 with a three-run double in the fourth, and Bruick and Coppock each went 1 for 2 with two runs scored.

The Lady Hornets will get a bye when the State Tournament starts on Thursday, and will play Friday at Lady Hornet Field at noon.

“We’re down to a one-game season and they know that,” Clark said of her players. “We needed tonight to celebrate, relax and end it this way. We were able to start all seniors and I made sure we finished with all seniors on the field and that’s what this team is about. They wanted to put an exclamation point on it and they did. I’m extremely proud of them.”