BENTON — Errorless defense and precise pitching combined with timely hitting as the Bryant Lady Hornets, taking a break from 7A-Central Conference action, oulasted the rival Benton Lady Panthers, 6-0, on Thursday night.
Raven Loveless pitched the seven-inning shutout, limiting the Lady Panthers to four singles. She struck out two but got strong support from the defense as the Lady Hornets improved to 22-2 this season going into a pair of non-league games on Saturday. They’ll play Rogers at 10 a.m., and Benton Harmony Grove at 2 p.m. On Tuesday, the Lady Hornets return to league play against the Mount St. Mary Belles at Sherwood.
Meagan Chism drove in three runs and Loveless knocked in two against Benton. That duo, along with Regan Ryan and Brooklyn Trammell each had two hits in the game.
Bryant scored twice in the first inning and it stayed a 2-0 game until the top of the seventh when the Lady Hornets broke it open with four more as Lady Panthers’ pitcher Rylea Brimhall settled in and dueled Loveless through six.
That opening salvo for Bryant was instigated by Ryan’s lead-off double. With one out, Sarah Evans cracked a single to center to produce the first run. On a late throw home, Evans took second then advanced to third on Chism’s single to left. Loveless beat out an infield hit to get Evans home with the second tally.
Loveless retired 11 of the first 12 she faced, only giving up a two-out single to Tuesday Melton in the second. Hallie Braley singled with two down in the fourth but was stranded as the Bryant pitcher started a run of seven set down in order before Cayla Clayton singled to open the bottom of the seventh.
Brimhall, meanwhile, pitched around Trammell’s one-out double in the top of the fourth, a two-out error in the fifth that allowed Maddie Stephens to reach, and a two-out single by Trammell in the sixth.
In the seventh, however, Alissa Suarez drew a one-out walk and, after she stole second, Ryan beat out a bunt hit to put runners at the corners. Stephens tapped out as Suarez held at third and Ryan took second. Evans followed with a tap in front of the plate. Benton catcher Madi Mehlin got to it then got back to the plate in time to tag out Suarez.
But, with the bags full, Chism drilled a double to right to clear them and it was 5-0. Loveless doubled to set the final score.
In the home seventh, Clayton singled and took second on a passed ball before Braley struck out. Clayton then got picked off second by Chism, the Bryant catcher. Suarez took the throw as Clayton took off for third. But Suarez relayed to Maddie Thompson at third in time for the second out.
Mehlin followed with a liner to center for a single but Melton flew out to Stephens in left to end the game.