Lady Hornets capture tournament title on Sory’s walk-off blast
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continue posting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By Rob Patrick
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — KaySo creamed it.
Just minutes before midnight under what they were calling a “supermoon”, Bryant’s Kayla Sory came to the plate with[more] two out and the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh. On a 1-1 pitch from Mountain Home’s star hurler Shelby Anderson, she proceeded to unload. Her shot sailed over the fence in left-center for a walk-off home run that completed the Lady Hornets’ run to become the champion of the champions.
The 3-2 win on Saturday night was their third one-run victory over a defending State champion in the Lady Charging Wildcats Tournament of Champions at Burns Park. It came on the heels of 1-0 victories over 2010 Class 5A title-holder Greenbrier (by virtue of a solo homer by Jessie Taylor) and 2010 Class 2A champ Foreman (by virtue of a squeeze play executed by Cassiday Wilson at the plate and Hannah Rice on third). Mountain Home’s Lady Bombers had won the Class 6A crown last season.
“It’s called the beast way,” declared Bryant head coach Debbie Clark with a grin after her team accepted its impressive trophy. “What can we expect?
“Hey, we played some good softball,” she added. “These girls have really, really bounced back.”
The Lady Hornets started the week on Monday with a shock: Losing 15-5 at White Hall. It was a loss, that Clark said, re-focused her own defending State champs.
“They knew they had it in them and I think Monday they started questioning — not that they didn’t have it in them but why did that happen,” Clark explained. “Sometimes we can’t explain why things happen but we have to go on. It made them realize how many people expected them to win.
“So, tonight, since we had such a long break (after playing Saturday morning against Foreman), we went to the pavilion (adjacent to the field), pulled the tables around and we visualized,” added the coach, “which is something I think is extremely important. We sat down and I went through every player. Everybody had their eyes closed and we talked about ‘What have you done in the past? What do we know that you can do? What you can depend on.’
“It’s mental,” she explained. “We’ve got to get through that mental block and let them realize how tough they are. And they are. They’re really, really tough. So many people have said, ‘You’ve got a good team.’ And I know they are. I’ve just got to get them to continue to believe that. Good teams have ups and downs. We’re enjoying the ups right now but we have to know that if downs come, we can make it through it and keep plugging away.”
Anderson was another tough customer for the Lady Hornets to deal with in the pitcher’s circle. Headed the Williams Baptist next year, she stands 6-1, throws hard, an intimidating figure. She was the third college-bound pitcher Bryant had faced in the tourney.
But, as she had in Bryant’s previous two games, junior Peyton Jenkins matched a stellar senior hurler and got the best of it in the end. After pitching the two shutouts, Jenkins gave up two runs to Mountain Home but both were unearned. In seven innings, she surrendered four hits and four walks while striking out 13, giving her 23 in 14 innings on the day.
And she helped herself by driving in a first-inning run with a two-out RBI double. Jenna Bruick who, along with Sory, led the Lady Hornets with two hits, beat out an infield hit to start the bottom of the first. Wilson sacrificed her to second then she reached third on Taylor’s groundout.
In the top of the inning, Mountain Home’s Shelby Upshaw had ripped a single to left on the second pitch by Jenkins. The ball got past left-fielder Carly Yazza who charged the ball in an attempt to catch it on the fly. Jenkins retired the next two batters including Anderson on a called third strike. But, on an 0-1 count, Miranda Manchester sliced a single to left to drive in the run.
In the second, Jenkins pitched around a one-out double by Lexie Thomas then Kaley Coppock singled for Bryant and was sacrificed to second by Katy Stillman. Manchester, however, came in from first to make a diving catch on a popped bunt attempt by Hannah Rice. Moments later, the speedy Bruick beat out another infield hit and, with Coppock at third, stole second. Anderson, however, got off the hook by getting Wilson to pop to short.
In the top of the third, Maggie Jo Cooper reached on a one-out error. Anderson plugged the gap in right-center for a double then Manchester walked to load the bases for Abby Molenhouse. On an 0-1 delivery, Molenhouse hit a soft liner back towards Jenkins who did a double-take and made a stab but couldn’t haul it down. Cooper scored to give the Lady Bombers a 2-1 lead.
With the bags still juiced, however, Jenkins struck out the next two to keep it that way.
And the Lady Hornets tied it back up in the bottom of the inning. Taylor blooped a single to left and advanced on a grounder to second by Jenkins, just avoiding a tag. Sory bounced a single past Upshaw at short but Taylor had to hold at third. With two down, however, Coppock’s grounder to short was booted allowing Taylor to score the tying tally.
Both teams had runners on base in every inning after that but the pitchers continued to step up under duress. Jenkins worked around a walk and a stolen base in the fourth then a pair of walks and a passed ball in the fifth. She hit a batter with two down in the sixth then struck out the side in the seventh after an error on an infield pop.
Hannah Rice reached on an error in Bryant’s fourth and stole second but was stranded. In the fifth, Ashley Chaloner beat out an infield hit after almost being robbed by Manchester. With two down, Coppock hit a shot at third but Molenhouse made a nifty back-hand stab to rob her of a hit. Stillman singled to start the sixth and was sacrificed to second by Rice. She took third when Bruick bounced out to third but was stranded.
Facing the heart of the Bryant lineup in the bottom of the second, Anderson managed to get both Taylor and Jenkins to groundout only to have Sory win it with her solo blast.
The Lady Hornets improved to 7-1 with the victory. They’ll return to action on Thursday at the MTSCA Tournament in Clarksville, Tenn., with pool play games against the host team and White House, Tenn.