By Bridget Bauer
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Fortunately, the Bryant Lady Hornets’ two runs in the top of the first inning were enough to pull out a 2-1 victory Monday over two-time defending Class 7A State champion North Little Rock Lady Charging Wildcats.
“Today’s win was one of the biggest of our season so far,” Bryant coach Debbie Clark said. “North Little Rock is the defending back-to-back 7A state champions and is returning most of the players from last year’s team. They are well coached, and we beat them at their place. We have been in their conference in the past and this helps us to see how we might possibly stack up against other teams in 7A.”
Freshman Raven Loveless threw a complete game and notched the pitching victory. She gave up the one run on five hits, walked one batter and struck out one.
“Raven had a great night pitching and hitting,” Clark said. “Our defense played lights out. I know I ran out to meet the players every time they came off the field to make the transition from defense to offense to give them all high fives. We turned two doubleplays (this doesn’t happen much in high school girls’ softball), and Coach Anthony Cantrell (North Little Rock) praised the team on its stellar performance. Our outfielders also gunned down two North Little Rock players as they tried to stretch their hits into extra bases.”
Freshman Regan Ryan started the contest with a single to centerfield. She scored after junior Julie Ward reached base and went to second on an error. Ward’s courtesy runner, Maddie Stephens, advanced to third on Cayla McDowell’s single to centerfield. Jordan Williams walked, and Loveless followed and got to first on an error, which sent Stephens home.
“We jumped out and scored first in the first inning, however, we left teammates stranded and need to work on our discipline at the plate,” Clark said. “We made some poor decisions running on the bases, including not reading the ball off the bat and, therefore, we were not able to extend our lead.
“Base running takes practice and discipline, and we will continue to work on this in practice and make better decisions on the field,” she added. “North Little Rock is one of the rare teams who will throw behind a runner. They are not scared. They put pressure on the offense to the point that teams are scared to be aggressive on the bases. We have to make sure we don’t run the bases scared.”
The Lady Charging Wildcats’ lone run occurred in the bottom of the sixth after Morgan Seaton reached on an error and eventually scored on a passed ball. Both teams committed two errors in the contest.
The Lady Hornets (7-1 overall and 3-0 in the 7A/6A-Central Conference) accumulated nine hits and were paced by Ryan and Mallory Theel, who each had two-hit performances. In addition to McDowell, Williams, Loveless, Sarah Evans and Abby Staton all recorded a hit.
Prior to the contest, Clark gave her team a speech about discipline, what it is and that it is a learnable skill. She pointed out that it is hard work and sometimes requires playing through the pain.
“We had to work with our lineup during the Cabot/Beebe Tournament and move personnel to different positions,” Clark said. “The players followed our guidance and direction, and we are seeing the fruits of their discipline and dedication during practice and games.”
The Lady Hornets return to conference play today when they host another old rival, the Conway Lady Wampus Cats.