Lady Hornets earn tourney crown at Benton’s Bootsie Gordon Memorial
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
BENTON — This time, head coach Debbie Stepp and her players won’t need magic markers.
The Bryant Lady Hornets won in every which way — including a beat-down, a comeback, and a pitcher’s duel — sweeping four teams to capture the 2010 Bootsie Gordon Memorial Tournament played Saturday at Tyndall Park and the new Benton High School field.
The Lady Hornets used two big innings to subdue the Greenbrier Lady Panthers in the championship game, 8-3. They got to the finals with a 2-1 win over the Searcy Lady Lions in the semi’s after opening with an 11-1 clubbing of the Beebe Lady Badgers and a comeback win, 8-5, over the Hope Lady Bobcats.[more]
It was the second Bootsie title for Stepp, the Lady Hornets’ first-year coach. Three years ago, her Wynne team was a last-second replacement in the tourney and wound up winning it. But, because they were added late, Wynne wasn’t included among the teams listed on the tournament t-shirts. So, when they were given shirts after winning the tournament, the players took them home and added “Wynne” to the list themselves.
Not a problem this time.
It was, however, a long day. They started against Beebe at 9 a.m., in a game that featured two home runs by Jessie Taylor. When the first pitch was thrown in the championship contest, it was nearly 9 p.m.
“I was real pleased,” Stepp said. “I thought we made most of the routine plays. We made a couple of errors, a couple of mental mistakes but that’s why you come and play.”
When asked what the key had been, however, Stepp said, “Our bats. Against Beebe, we started out really strong. The game with Hope had a dramatic finish but we’ve had dramatic finishes before, like against Van Buren. That was good. Then Searcy — we faced some really good pitching today. Searcy’s pitcher was good but we did well. Then we came out against Greenbrier really strong.
“I’m really proud,” she stated. “But we’ve got to keep hitting.”
They’ll no doubt try to do that next week when they visit Sheridan, which won the third-place game at Saturday’s tourney, on Tuesday, March 16, then travel to play Little Rock Central in their second 7A-Central Conference outing of the season on Thursday.
Bryant 8, Greenbrier 3
Peyton Jenkins, Bryant’s winning pitcher in all four games, pitched out of early trouble then helped her own cause with a two-run triple in a game-breaking uprising in the fourth inning.
In the top of the first, she worked around a two-out double by Kailey Madden but Greenbrier’s starter, Ashley Hankins, worked around an error that allowed Kayla Sory to reach and a single to center by Taylor.
In the second, Cicely New singled and advance to third on a pair of illegal pitches. Jenkins, who has worked diligently to overcome a problem with that which plagued her last year, came back and struck out Hankins. And when Taylor Atkinson hit a sharp grounder to Shanika Johnson at third, New got caught off the bag and Johnson tagged her out. After a walk, Jenkins ended the inning with one of her eight strikeouts in the game.
“It was a hard day for Peyton because of the leaping calls,” Stepp said, regarding the illegal pitches. “We go through one game and they call her several times then we play the game against Searcy and didn’t get called one time. Then we’re in this game (against Greenbrier) and we’re called. The inconsistency — I’m not blaming an umpire. That’s not what I’m saying. But we’ve got to have some consistency for all the players. So we’ll know. She and I, we’ve got to work on that. It gets to her mentally but if we’re ahead, that really helps.”
The Lady Hornets got ahead in the bottom of the second. Johnson slapped a double to right and took third on a wild pitch to get the uprising started. Ashley Chaloner’s single to right drove her home with the game’s first run. With one out, Kelsie Works floated a single over the second baseman’s head and when the throw from right field evaded the shortstop at second, Chaloner sprinted to third.
Works stole second then Jenna Bruick slapped a bouncer to the left side, reaching safely when the third baseman juggled the ball ever so slightly. On the throw, Chaloner broke for home and scored as the ball got away from the Greenbrier catcher.
Works reached third and Bruick cruised into second. An illegal pitch by Hankins allowed Works to score then Kayla Sory smacked a single to left the bring in Bruick with the fourth run of the inning.
Jenkins worked around another two-out double by Madden in the third and the Lady Hornets went back to work on offense.
Jenkins doubled, Johnson was hit by a pitch and, with one out, Shelby Henson slapped a single to right to load the bases. But Greenbrier got out of the inning without giving up a run as Hankins induced a pair of groundouts, the first of which led to a force at the plate.
And, in the top of the fourth, Greenbrier got on the board when New walked then beat a throw to second on a tap to third by Hankins, who also reached safely. Atkinson followed with an RBI double. A second run scored on a groundout but Atkinson was stranded at third when Jenkins fanned the next two batters.
Their lead cut in half at 4-2, the Lady Hornets huddled with their coach before the start of the bottom of the inning.
“I called them over and said, ‘Guys, we’ve got to play to win. We get our lead-off on, we get bases loaded, we’ve got to score,’” she recalled. “Then we had another big inning. That was great.”
Indeed, Cassidy Wilson led off the home fourth with a shot to the fence in left-center then Sory knocked one off the center field wall to trade places with her. Taylor followed with a liner off the leg of Hankins that sent her to the ground.
But Hankins continued and battled with Jenkins. The count went to 3-2 then Jenkins blasted one off the wall in left-center for a two-run triple that made it 7-2.
With two down, Henson singled to drive in Jenkins.
Greenbrier managed a run in the top of the sixth but that was it.
Bryant 2, Searcy 1
Searcy, having just spoiled a possible Bryant-Benton semifinal by beating the host Lady Panthers, was held to one unearned run on just three hits by Jenkins and solid Bryant defense. Lady Lions’ pitcher Amber Rollins was just about as stingy. But two early runs held up for the Lady Hornets’ win.
Bryant’s infield turned a doubleplay in the game and Taylor, the team’s catcher, picked off a base-runner along the way.
Amanda Richardson singled to start the contest for Searcy and, an out later, Olivia McConnaughay was hit by a pitch. But Jenkins struck out the next two to get out of the jam.
Bryant grabbed the lead in the home half when Bruick reached on a third-strike wild pitch, Wilson sacrificed her to second and Sory mashed an RBI double.
Jenkins hit a batter and walked another in the second but left them stranded, fanning two and inducing a comebacker.
In the home second, Johnson drive to left was misplayed, allowing her to get to second. Chaloner sacrificed her to third and she scored on Henson’s groundout to make it 2-0.
In the third, McConnaughay picked up a one-out single but Nila Navarro hit a grounder to Bruick’s right at second. She tossed to Wilson for the force and the relay to first was in time for a doubleplay to end the inning.
But Hankins pitched around a single to Wilson and a walk to Sory in the bottom of the third. She would allow just two more baserunners after that on her way to eight strikeouts. Johnson singled to lead off the fourth and Wilson walked with one out in the fifth.
Searcy, meanwhile, scratched out its run in the top of the fourth when Heidi Abstain reached on an error, took second on a one-out walk to Morgan Tipton and scored on a single by Emma Howard.
Two were stranded, however, when Jenkins got Emily Ford to ground out to Johnson at third and Richardson to tap out to Sory at first.
And Searcy would have only two baserunners after that. In the fifth, Navarro drew a two-out walk but was picked off first by Taylor to end the inning. In the sixth, Abstain reached on a third-strike wild pitch and was sacrificed to second as the potential tying run. But Jenkins fanned Tipton and Howard to escape.
She set down the side in order in the seventh to finish it.
Bryant 8, Hope 5
The Lady Hornets were an out away from losing in the bottom of the sixth with the time-limit running out when they not only rallied to tie the game but won it on an inside-the-park homer by Bruick.
Trailing 5-3, the Lady Hornets opened the home sixth with Taylor slashing a triple to right, a sinking liner that skipped past the charging outfielder. Jenkins doubled her home to make it a one-run game. She advanced to third on a wild pitch but the next two batters struck out and the Lady Hornets were down to their last out when Henson came through with an RBI single to right to knot the game at 5.
Works kept the inning going with an infield hit that, with an error, put runners at second and third for Bruick who sliced a drive into the left-field corner. She circled the bases before the fielder could get to the ball and return it to the infield as the game concluded.
Sory started the game in the pitcher’s circle for Bryant before giving way to Jenkins in the fifth.
Hope, which would go on to win the consolation bracket, took a 2-0 lead in the first on a double and a one-out home run. A infield single followed but the Lady Hornets turned a doubleplay to keep it to a two-run inning.
Bryant, meanwhile, had its first nine batters set down by Hope.In the third, the Lady Bobcats put together another couple of hits but, the first, a single to left, was retrieved by Jackie Hill and when the batter tried to stretch it into a double, Hill threw her out at second.
But Hope added a run in the fourth. A double and a single put runners at the corners with no outs. The Lady Hornets turned another doubleplay but the run scored from third.
Bryant tied it in the bottom of the inning. Bruick doubled and, two outs later, Taylor’s drive to right was misplayed. Bruick scored and Taylor wound up at second. Jenkins singled her home to make it 3-2 then she scored all the way from first on a long double by Johnson.
A walk to Chaloner and an error that allowed Henson to reach loaded the bases as the Lady Hornets threatened to gain the lead but Searcy wriggled off the hook with a groundout to short.
And, in the top of the fifth, the Lady Bobcats regained the lead. Sory appeared to be out of the inning unscathed after retiring a pair around a one-out single. She induced a grounder to third but an error kept the inning alive. Two hits later, Hope had a 5-3 lead. A walk loaded the bases and Jenkins came on in relief. A fly to Hill in left ended the threat.
The Lady Hornets were retired in order in the bottom of the inning but Jenkins set down Hope 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth to set up the dramatic rally to win.
Bryant 11, Beebe 1
The first was a laser to left-center. The second was a towering drive deep into the parking lot beyond the left-field fence. Both were shots by Taylor, the first a three-run blast, the second a grand slam that completed the Lady Hornets’ romp.
Bryant snapped a scoreless tie in the top of the third. Works singled to right and Hannah Rice beat out a bunt hit. An out later, Wilson doubled down the right-field line to make it 1-0. Sory plugged the gap in right-center to drive in two then Taylor, who drove in eight runs with her three hits in the game, cracked a two-bagger to make it 4-0.
Jenkins, after giving up a bad-hop single and a bunt hit in the first, retired 11 in a row. She wound up with nine strikeouts and a three-hitter.
Bryant added to its lead in the top of the fifth when singles by Wilson and Sory were followed by Taylor’s first round-tripper, a liner that cleared the fence in left-center in a blink.
Beebe managed its lone run in the bottom of the inning when Kayla Jackson was hit by a pitch, Shelbie Thomas walked and, with two out, Nikki King singled.
The top of the sixth got revved up for Bryant when Bruick reached on a one-out error. Wilson singled and Sory walked to load the bases for Taylor, who launched a moon shot to left, making it 11-1.
Jenkins pitched around another hit batter in the bottom of the inning closing out the win.