Blasts by Taylor, Wilson spark Lady Hornets’ comeback in first conference game

Due to circumstances beyond the control of new head coach Debbie Stepp, the Bryant Lady Hornets softball team found themselves playing a 7A-Central Conference game in their second contest of the season on Thursday night.

And to make it even a little more tense for her, the Lady Hornets struggled early, falling behind 5-2.

But highlighted by home runs by Jessie Taylor and Cassidy Wilson along with some strong pitching down the stretch by Peyton Jenkins, the Lady Hornets rallied for an 11-5 win.[more]

“They scared me but we won,” Stepp stated.

“The girls told me at the end, ‘Coach, that’s what we do sometimes, we come from behind,’” she related. “I said, ‘You know, somebody should’ve clued me in on that. Somebody should’ve said, Coach, don’t worry. We do this.’

“I didn’t know how they would respond being down 5-2 because I’ve never seen that before,” Stepp explained. “I admit I was nervous because I wasn’t sure how they were going to respond to the pressure especially being as young as they are.”

The Lady Hornets are mostly sophomores and freshmen this season but several of those sophomores played key roles as freshmen last year in Bryant’s run to the Class 7A State finals. Of course, Stepp was busy leading her Wynne team to a State title at that point.

The Lady Hornets faced the 5-2 going into the bottom of the fifth and, when the first two batters in the inning struck out, it looked like things weren’t going to change right away.

But when Hannah Rice reached base on an error, the Lady Hornets kicked it into gear. Jenna Bruick sliced a double to left field then Wilson beat out an infield hit to drive in a run, making it 5-3. A pitch later, Taylor unloaded on a long homer to dead center, a three-run jack that gave Bryant a 6-5 lead.

“Instead of TGIF, it was TG Jessie Taylor,” declared Coach Stepp. “She hit that home run and got our bats going.”

Jenkins kept the inning going with a walk. She swiped second and raced home when Shelby Henson stroked a single to center.

Van Buren went down in order in the top of the sixth and, in the home half, the Lady Hornets revved up the offense again. Kelsie Works led off with a walk and sprinted to third on a single to right by Makenzie Rice. After Rice stole second, her sister Hannah drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Bruick laced another double to drive in a run then Wilson smacked a two-run bomb to cap off the scoring.

Jenkins finished up strong getting five of the last six outs on strikes.

She wound up with 13 strikeouts while walking five and hitting a batter.

Van Buren took a 1-0 lead in the opening inning when Monica Smith walked and, with two out, a drive to right-center by Kelcie Atwell was dropped, allowing the run to score. Atwell wound up at third then Jenkins hit the next batter, who tried to break early and get in a rundown so Atwell could score. But the Lady Hornets executed defensively with Taylor, the catcher, throwing to Jenkins who made the runner commit, throwing to Wilson, the shortstop at second, to get the out before the run could score.

Bruick had the first of her three hits in the bottom of the inning but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Wilson followed with the first of her three hits but was stranded when Taylor grounded out.

Jenkins fanned two in the second to keep it 1-0. She then singled to lead off the bottom of the inning but, on a sacrifice bunt attempt, the ball was popped up and Van Buren was able to get a double play.

The Pointerettes got two hits off Jenkins in the third but she struck out the side to get out of the jam.

Bryant then took a 2-1 lead iin the third when freshman Courtney Davidson singled to center, moved to second on a sacrifice by Makenzie Rice and scored when the outfielder fell down chasing after Hannah Rice’s shot which went for a triple. She scored before the play was over when the throw to the pitcher got away.

But the Pointerettes answered in the top of the fourth to gain their 5-2 advantage. Caroline Barker walked with one out then, with two down, an error kept the inning alive. Another walk loaded the bases for Monica Smith who hit a single that ricocheted off Jenkins. A walk forced in the go-ahead run then Atwell smacked a two-run double to right-center.

“We really made some mental errors because they were routine plays that should’ve been made that we didn’t make,” Stepp observed. “They were real apprehensive on defense. It was almost like, ‘Please, don’t hit the ball to me,’ and I said, ‘The attitude has to be hit to me, I dare you to hit it to me.’”

In the bottom of the fourth, Jenkins singled but was stranded after advancing on a wild pitch.

“Some of our hitters were kind of pressing so I just called them over and I said, you know, we’ve got to play to win and not play not to lose,” the coach mentioned. “‘We’ve just got to get up there and be patient, get our pitch and hit it.’ They didn’t have an over-powering pitcher. And we couldn’t leave people on base.”

In the top of the fifth, another single that deflected off of Jenkins had Van Buren thinking about adding to the lead. The next batter got a sacrifice bunt down. She was thrown out at first and when the lead runner took too big a turn at second, she was doubled off.

The game-turning home fifth ensued.

The Lady Hornets finished with 13 hits in the game.

Stepp acknowledged the value of winning despite some adversity.

“Ashley Chaloner got hurt in practice (Wednesday) so I had another new person in the lineup and we used a DP,” she mentioned. “It just seems like game after game, we’re having to change the lineup. And, eventually, the basketball players will get here though we hope it’s after they win their ring. But it’s really been challenging, this first couple of weeks.”

The Lady Hornets, now 2-0, will play a non-league game at Lake Hamilton on Tuesday, March 9.

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