Lady Hornets finish one win, ease to another vs. Russellville
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RUSSELLVILLE — On a trip to Russellville on Tuesday, March 15, the Bryant Lady Hornets had to finish something they thought they were already done with before playing their regularly-scheduled duel with the Lady Cyclones.
When the two teams met in Bryant on Thursday, March 13, the Lady Hornets had a 2-1 lead when storms in the area. Since they’d played more than half the game (they were going into the home half of the fifth) and they led 2-1, the Lady Hornets with coaches Lisa Dreher and Dale Jones figured it counted as a completed game and their first 7A-Central Conference victory.
But upon the return trip, they were informed that such wasn’t the case.
“We had to finish the game we thought we had won,” Dreher related, “but they said, by rule, you have to pick up where you left off and finish the game for it to be considered complete. So we began the first game in the bottom of the fifth inning.”
The Lady Hornets managed to hold onto the victory, 3-2, then tack on a 15-4 rout in the second contest sparked by an 8-run outburst that snapped a 4-4 tie in the fifth inning.
They improved to 10-4 overall and 3-1 in league play, going into home-and-home showdowns with Conway on Thursday (at Bryant) and Friday (at Conway) on April 17-18.
“One thing I’ve been talking to the girls about is playing hard all seven innings and staying focused,” Dreher mentioned. “They did this better than they have all year. Even after that big inning, they stayed hungry for more. That’s how we have to be. Also, it took 14 to 17 girls to win those varsity games. The girls were able to come off the bench and have a positive impact on these games.”
The team was buoyed by the return of junior pitcher Christen Kirchner who’s also one of its top hitters.
“Kirchner had to be a little more aggressive with her pitching because she had to go 10 innings,” Dreher noted. “I think that probably allowed them to get a few more hits than they normally would, but we were able to make up for it with our bats. Her best pitch wasn’t working all that well, but she was able to compensate with all of her other pitches and hitting her spots precisely. When you have a pitcher that is able to do that, you know you have something.
“She showed a lot of mental toughness,” added the coach. “Her grandmother, whom she idolized, passed away (the previous) weekend and her funeral was (Tuesday). She came straight from that and met us there at the game. We pulled up in the bus and she was standing in the parking lot dressed in all black waiting on the bus. One of the girls was bringing her uniform. At that point, I wasn’t sure how well she would be able to perform. Not many would even be at the game. Once we got going in the first game, I knew she was good. It was all business. I know she has a picture of her grandma under her shoelaces down by the toe of her shoe. You have to think her grandma was watching and was very proud! I think it inspired us all.”
In the resumption of the March 13 game, the Lady Hornets were up in the bottom of the fifth with Kirchner on first, one out and Sarah Hart at the plate. Kirchner stole second as play resumed then moved to third on Hart’s groundout. She was stranded there.
Neither team scored in the sixth but, in the seventh, Russellville scored to tie the game 2-2. In the bottom of the inning, Paige Turpin walked. Pinch-running Morgan Seelinger swiped second and third. Russellville walked the next two to set up a force at every base with Hart at the plate. The senior came through with a shot to right to drive in the winning run.
Kirchner finished with a two-hitter. She walked five and struck out eight over the course of the split game.
At the plate, she and Kristen Dorsey finished with two hits each. Hart, Brittany Welton and Mo McDaniel also had hits.
Dorsey, Turpin, Kirchner, Kim Wilson and Brandi Barnes each had two hits in the second game. Hart, Lindsey Cason and Shanika Johnson had hits as well.
The tell-tale fifth-inning uprising began with a hit by Dorsey, a walk to Turpin and a bunt single by Kirchner to load the bases. Hart drilled a double then Wilson and Barnes cracked back-to-back singles. After Cason reached on an error, Dorsey, Turpin and Kirchner ripped consecutive base hits to cap things off.
Bryant tacked on three more in the seventh to complete the blowout.
Kirchner finished with four strikeouts but no walks. Russellville managed just five hits.