By Rob Patrick
VAN BUREN — When head coach Debbie Clark talks about her Beasts, she’s[more] obviously referring to her team’s hitting ability. And it’s not just the fact that they hit well, it refers to the authority with which they attack the ball.
While they’ve had a few games this year when it required bunts and steals and sacrifices with great pitching and sparkling defense, they way they like to win is to mash.
On Saturday, April 30, they mashed.
After a long trip to Van Buren, the Lady Hornets rolled up 21 runs on 24 hits to sweep a 7A/6A-Central Conference doubleheader over the Lady Pointers winning 10-0 and 11-0. And of those 24 hits, 11 of them were for extra bases. Jessie Taylor, the Queen of the Beasts, powered home runs in each game and had two doubles in the nightcap, going 5 for 8 with 6 runs batted in on the day. Kayla Sory pitched in with three doubles as part of going 7 for 9 on the day.
Meanwhile the defense was flawless and the pitching by Peyton Jenkins and Sory was nearly so. In the opener, Jenkins pitched four innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out eight. Sory finished up with three shutout innings, allowing four hits and two passes while fanning a pair. Jenkins then came back in the second game and worked all six innings in the second whitewash, scattering four hits and a walk while striking out 10 more.
The win improved the Lady Hornets to 20-4 overall and 10-1 in league play, staying a game ahead of the second-place North Little Rock Lady Charging Wildcats. Bryant is set to visit Conway on Tuesday, host Cabot on Thursday then take a break from conference against defending Class 5A State champ Greenbrier on Friday.
The Lady Hornets will wrap up the regular-season with a showdown at North Little Rock on Monday, May 9, and a final non-conference contest at Lake Hamilton on Tuesday, May 10.
They will officially begin defense of their Class 7A State championship Saturday, May 14, at Bentonville.
At Van Buren, the Lady Hornets’ onslaught began with two out in the top of the first inning of the first game when Taylor launched a 2-2 pitch over the fence in center for a solo homer.
Jenkins drew a walk and courtesy runner Brittney Ball advanced to second on Sory’s first hit, a ground single to left. Cassidy Wilson chased both of them home with a long drive to center for a double, making it 3-0.
Van Buren made a bid to answer in the bottom of the inning when Logan Brown led off with a double. She advanced to third on Kinsey Williams’ grounder to second. But Jenkins struck out Katelyn White and, after a walk to Kelcie Atwell, the Lady Pointers’ clean-up hitter, she fanned Dayten Lunsford to end the threat.
Van Buren pitcher Hunter Ruttan kept it 3-0 by working around a single by Katy Stillman with one-out in the second and despite walks to Taylor, Jenkins and Wilson in the third. Ashley Chaloner made a bid for a sacrifice fly with one out but the Lady Pointers threw out Ball at the plate for an inning ending doubleplay.
Meanwhile, Jenkins was easing through the Van Buren lineup. She retired seven in a row at one point including six of them on strikes. In the fourth, the Lady Hornets were retired in order by Rutwell. Jenkins issued a walk to White and a two-out double to Lauren Tipton but both were stranded when she struck out Destiny Moses to end the inning.
The Lady Hornets expanded their lead in the fifth. Hannah Rice was hit by a pitch to start the inning then, with two out, went to third on a single by Sory. Wilson walked to load the bases and Ashley Chaloner singled in Rice and, on the throw back to the infield, Sory came in as well with Chaloner taking second. Walks to Yazza and Stillman forced in Wilson then Bruick walked as well to get Chaloner home, making it 7-0.
Sory took over the pitching chores in the bottom of the inning and issued a pair of walks and a single but got out of the bases-loaded jam by getting Atwell to tap one back to her.
A two-out double by Sory in the bottom of the six led to two more runs. Breanna Sanders came in as a courtesy runner and scored when Wilson shot a single through the left side. Kaley Coppock’s grounder to second was misplayed, sending Wilson to third. She then scored when Coppock took off for second and drew a throw on the first pitch to Yazza.
Singles by Lunsford and Moses came to nothing in the bottom of the inning as Sory induced a pair of grounders for force plays then struck out Ashlee Deffenbaugh to preserve the shutout. She would finish by pitching around a one-out single by Williams in the seventh.
In the interim, the Lady Hornets tacked on two final runs in the top of the inning on singles by Bruick and Taylor and a lined double to right center by Jenkins.
Bryant was the home team in the second game and ended the game early when, in the bottom of the sixth, Yazza doubled and scored when Stillman’s bouncer to second was botched.
The Lady Hornets scored in five of the six innings. Jenkins recorded her first two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 top of the first. In the bottom of the inning, Bruick slapped a single to left, stole second and, after Hannah Rice walked, scored when Taylor laced a liner to deep left for a two-run double.
In the second, the Lady Pointers loaded the bases on singles by Lunsford and Lauren Tipton and a two-out walk to Ali Luedloff. But Jenkins’ third strikeout of the inning left all three stranded.
And the Lady Hornets went back to work with the bats in the bottom of the inning. Stillman cracked a one-out single through the left side then Bruick mustled up on a 2-2 delivery, drilling it to center for a double that allowed Stillman to score. After Hannah Rice lined out to left, Taylor unloaded on a 1-0 pitch for her second homer of the day to dead center.
In the top of the third, Jenkins hit Brown with a pitch but then proceeded to retire the next 10 batters in a row, half of them on strikes. A one-out single by White in the top of the sixth ended the run. An out later, Lunsford bounced her second hit up the middle but both were left on when Tipton grounded out to Wilson at short.
The bottom of the third was the lone inning in which the Lady Hornets were blanked but they loaded the bases anyway on a double by Sory and walks to Wilson and Stillman.
They had two outs before they got things going again in the fourth. Jenkins walked, Sory lined a single to left and Wilson drew a free pass to fill the bags. A wild pitch allowed Jenkins to score to make it 6-0.
In the bottom of the fifth, walks to Stillman and Bruick set the table for Taylor who doubled in a run. Jenkins singled to plate Bruick then Sory capped the inning with an RBI double to make it 9-0.