Photos by Kevin Nagle
For three innings, the Beebe Lady Badgers’ freshman lefty slinger Ellie Reaves seemed to have the[more] Bryant Lady Hornets’ number. After giving up a lead-off single to Bryant’s Jenna Bruick, she had retired nine in a row including four on strikes.
Not surprisingly, the Lady Hornets’ senior Peyton Jenkins was shutting down the Lady Badgers too. She worked around a two-out single by Brittney Gentry in the top of the first and overcame an error at the start of the third with the help of catcher Jessie Taylor, who threw the baserunner out trying to steal.
Each pitcher faced a crucial test in the fourth, however. Jenkins passed it and Reaves did not.
Bryant broke out with five runs in the fourth and five more in the bottom of the fifth for a tougher-that-that 10-0 run-rule win at Lady Hornets Field Thursday.
“She’s a freshman,” said Bryant head coach Debbie Clark of Reaves. “She’s got size, which you can teach. The score is not indicative of the kind of pitcher we faced.
“But the girls came over (after their first at-bats) and I said, ‘Girls, what do you see?’ They are so good about analyzing,” the coach related. “They said she’s got movement and we worked out what we needed to do to adjust.”
In the top of the fourth, Jenkins issued her only walk to Calah Hall but Taylor picked the runner off first. After a 10-pitch battle with Gentry, Jenkins got a strikeout. But Megan Devlin slapped a single to right and Lanie Reaves drilled a double to left-center to put the potential go-ahead runners in scoring position with Courtney Caldwell at the plate.
Jenkins needed just four pitches to fan her and send it to the bottom of the fourth.
Ellie Reaves struck out Katy Stillman to start the frame but, on the next pitch, Taylor laced a double to the base of the fence for a double. Jenkins then drew a four-pitch walk, brining up Kayla Sory.
The two battled to a 3-2 count then came the moment of truth and Sory ripped a drive to left-center for a two-run double.
That opened the floodgates. A double by Cassidy Wilson made it 3-0. Kaley Coppock chopped a single up the middle to put runners at the corners for Carly Yazza. She popped a 1-0 delivery over the second baseman’s head for an RBI single.
McKenzie Rice’s single up the middle loaded the bases for Bruick who slapped a bouncer to Madelyn Poe at short. Poe tagged Yazza but her throw to the plate was too late to get Coppock as the lead reached 5-0.
“They had a couple of opportunities and we shut it down,” Clark noted. “And that’s just the difference between a seasoned team and a team playing six or seven freshman starters.“I’m so glad to see that kind of pitching,” she reiterated. “That’s what I want. What good is it going to do to play somebody that’s like batting practice for us. That’s not what I want. That’s not what’s going to make these girls stronger. It doesn’t win us a State championship but it gets us prepared for the next challenge.
“These girls work so hard,” she concluded. “What I’ve found out as a coach is there are little things you can adjust, but if they’re good hitters, don’t change a lot.”
The Lady Badgers went down quietly in the top of the fifth with Rice making a nice short-hop stop at third on a shot off Ellie Reaves’ bat. Jenkins recorded her eighth and ninth strikeouts then the ‘Beasts’ went back to work in the bottom of the inning.
Taylor singled, Jenkins doubled and Sory unloaded on a 3-1 pitch, blasting the team’s first home run of the season over the wall in center.
With one out, Coppock singled and, with two down, Rice plugged the gap in right-center for a double. Bruick cracked a single that ricocheted off the Beebe pitcher. Pinch-runner Ashlyn Lessenberry scored and, after Reaves was checked out by her coach, her second pitch to Stillman was sent into right for a game-ending single.
Stillman’s hit was the Lady Hornets’ 13th and gave each of the nine starters at least one.
Bryant is scheduled to host Vilonia a 5 this evening.