Greenbrier pins first loss on Lady Hornets

By Rob Patrick

GREENBRIER — The Greenbrier Lady Panthers had lost just two games this season, one of them was to the Bryant Lady Hornets in the championship game of the annual Bootsie Gordon Memorial Tournament in Benton.

So when the Lady Hornets traveled to Greenbrier on Monday, April 12, with a still unblemished record, the Lady Panthers figured to be primed for payback.

And, behind the one-hit pitching of Cecily New, they got it with a 5-0 win.[more]

As important as the game was for Greenbrier, for the Lady Hornets, it was the third most important game this week. Both of their other games this week will be against top contenders in the 7A-Central Conference. Tuesday, they host Cabot, which has lost just once in league play. On Thursday, they square off with North Little Rock which comes into the week, like Bryant, unbeaten in the conference.

“My philosophy is that anybody can be beat on any given day,” declared Lady Hornets head coach Debbie Stepp after the game. “Today, they were better than us for whatever reason. We couldn’t get a runner to third, we only got one hit and we walked a couple of people. That pitcher dominated us."

New struck out 10 and allowed just four baserunners.

“Could it happen again with another team in our conference? You betcha,” Stepp continued. “So we’ve got to be ready. That’s why you play a game like this. I don’t believe in scheduling a weak schedule. I believe in scheduling teams that are going to make you better. Do I like losing? No. I can’t stand losing. This is not fun to lose.

“I told the girls, ‘What we have to do now is we have to remember what this feels like and (Tuesday) we’ve got to get between those lines and, for an hour and a half or two hours, give me laser beam focus in the box and on the field.”

While allowing that there are more important games ahead, Stepp asserted, “We schedule it, we put our uniforms on, we want to win. And this game, I think, is going to help us prepare for (Tuesday) and Thursday. We couldn’t have done this in practice. We couldn’t have pitched a pitcher like (New) in practice, in b.p.

“She was tough,” she reiterated while acknowledging that she didn’t think her team had faced a better pitcher this season, so far. “She was a dang good pitcher. They’re a good team. I think they’re one of the top teams in Class 5A and there’s some 5A teams that better look out with her on the mound especially. They’re well-coached.

“But now we know that we can put the bat on the ball, that they can walk people but we have to be patient,” Stepp concluded. “And we can’t score five runs at one time. Only one player can do their job, one at a time.”

The Lady Hornets fell behind 2-0 in the first inning when Bailey Reynolds beat out an infield hit, was sacrificed to second and scored on a double by Kayley Madden. New singled Madden to third then Ashley Hankins got her home on a groundout to second.

Reynolds would finish the game with three hits. Brittney Merritt and Lauren Rose added two each.

Bryant threatened in the top of the second when, with one out, Kayla Sory and Shanika Johnson waited out walks. But New got Brooke Howell to tap back to the circle then fanned Kelsie Works to get out of the jam.

In the bottom of the inning, the Lady Panthers loaded the bases on singles by Rose, Reynolds and Merritt with two down. A walk to Madden forced in a run.

While New and her teammates were retiring 13 batters in a row, they added two more runs in the fourth after Peyton Jenkins relieved Sory, who started. Rose singled, Reynolds double then Merritt chased both home with a two-bagger.

The inning continued with a walk to Madden but then Jenkins got New to pop to Sory at first and Hankins to fly to Hannah Rice in right. Taylor Atkinson followed with a shot that appeared to be headed to left but shortstop Cassidy Wilson robbed her with a lunging catch of the line drive.

Wilson would break up the no-hitter with two out in the top of the sixth when she hit a long drive to right. Kayla Waters, the Greenbrier right fielder, raced over and got a glove on it but couldn’t haul it in as Wilson wound up with a double.

But she was stranded after New and Jessie Taylor battled. Taylor fouled off a couple of two-strike pitches before flying out to Waters.Jenkins worked a walk to start the top of the seventh but New retired the next three to close out the win.

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