CONWAY — The Bryant Lady Hornets softball team took two huge steps Thursday night toward clinching the top seed from the 7A/6A-Central Conference to the Class 7A State Tournament and the first-round bye that goes with it.
Bryant earned a 9-2 win over the Conway Lady Cats then, on the Lady Cats’ field, dismissed the struggling Mount St. Mary Academy Belles, 17-2. The Lady Hornets improved to 18-10 overall, 8-3 in the conference but, most importantly, 5-0 against Class 7A members of the league.
Next Tuesday, May 3, Bryant will travel to Van Buren for a first-place showdown. It’ll be the final conference game for the Lady Hornets while Van Buren still has a game against Conway. Bryant will capture the top seed for State by beating Van Buren (or losing by less than two runs or with a Conway win over Van Buren on Friday, May 6).
Bryant 9, Conway 2
Sarah Evans and Julie Ward blasted home runs and drove in three runs each to lead the Lady Hornets past the Lady Cats in the first game of the evening. Raven Loveless held Conway to five hits and two unearned runs, walking one and fanning four.
Evans and Loveless each had two hits while Regan Ryan and Macey Jaramillo each stayed hot with two apiece as well.
The Lady Hornets spotted the Lady Cats a 1-0 lead in the home first when Lindsey Williams reached on an error, stole second and scored on a one-out single by Olivia Canalichio.
Loveless then fanned Allie St. John and got Holly Stewart to foul out to Ward, the Bryant catcher.
Bryant tied it in the top of the second. Loveless beat out an infield hit and courtesy runner Callie Bradley stole second then took third on a wild pitch. Regan Keesee’s grounder to third was misplayed and Bradley scored.
The Lady Cats could only manage a one-out walk in the home second. In the third, Evans belted a solo homer to right to put the Lady Hornets ahead to stay.
Conway was unable to muster a hit in the bottom of the third and, in the top of the fourth, Bryant took control of the game with four runs highlighted by Ward’s two-run blast.
Keesee and Jaramillo singled to start the frame. They moved to second and third on Ryan’s groundout. Shayla McKissock chased both runs home with a triple to make it 4-1 and, a pitch later, Ward unloaded.
In the fifth, there were two out when Jaramillo worked a walk. Ryan singled and McKissock drew a free pass to load the sacks. After a pitching change, Ward was hit by a pitch to force in a run. Conway was within a strike out ending it there but Evans drilled a 3-2 pitch to left for an RBI double to make it 9-1.
Conway scratched out a run in the home fifth on a two-out single by Williams and an error that allowed Megan Solberg to race all the way to third. But Loveless forced the Lady Cats to strand her there when she ended the inning with a strikeout.
A double and a single came to naught for the Lady Cats in the sixth and a one-out single in the seventh was wasted as Bryant closed out the victory.
Bryant 17, Mount St. Mary 2
A 12-run second inning eruption put the Lady Hornets in position for the run-rule win. They benefitted from seven walks and seven errors by the Belles in the contest.
Ryan had three hits. Evans and Jaramillo added two each while Ward drove in three runs.
Anna Turpin pitched all four innings for Bryant, scattering five hits without a walk and one strikeout.
Mount actually took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on the strength of a two-out RBI double by Susan Rice.
In the bottom of the inning, Ryan singled then McKissock and Ward each walked to fill the bags. Meagan Chism singled to give Bryant a 2-1 lead.
Ward’s bases-loaded double plated three runs early in the 12-run second. She scored on a wild pitch. Evans singled, Chism walked and Maddie Stephens knocked in a run with a single to right. A base hit by Jaramillo drove in two more.
Jaramillo sprinted home when Keesee’s grounder to short got through then Turpin singled her in to make it 11-1.
Ryan singled in a run, McKissock reached on an error. She drew a throw as she took off for second. That allowed Ryan to score. Ward got to second where her fly to left was misplayed. Evans capped off the outburst with an RBI single.
Rice singled in another run for the Belles with two down in the top of the third but Bryant got that back in the bottom half when Stephens walked, took second on a wild pitch and scored on a base hit to center by Jaramillo.
The game ended on the 15-run-after-three run rule when the Lady Hornets scored twice in the home fourth on a hit batter, a walk and two errors.