Not every game is going to turn out 14-0. But, so far, the Bryant Lady Hornets have come out on the right end of all 12 of their games including Tuesday night’s tougher-than-expected 2-0 win over the Russellville Lady Cyclones.
“Russellville played well,” noted Lady Hornets’ first-year coach Debbie Stepp. “I’d love to have every game 14 runs but it’s not going to be that way. You’re going to have an off night. You’re going to be sluggish one night. There are a lot of factors. But we won and I promise I will take it.[more]
“I’m trying to learn the teams,” she added. “I’m having to learn the competition here. So I go into every game expecting it to be for the conference championship because I don’t know what each team is like. Sometimes I think the players aren’t mentally focused. We’ve got to work on that but that comes with youth. We got frustrated because we were popping the ball up. We were grounding out. We weren’t waiting on the pitches, driving the pitch. We really pressed a couple of times.
“We have to work through that. No matter who we have, no matter what calls are made, we can only control ourselves and our responses. So, I said, we’ve got to get into the batter’s box not worrying about something the umpire might be calling. We’ve got to worry about the pitch, seeing if the pitch is a good pitch. We’ve just got to keep playing.”
But as hard a time as the Lady Hornets had with Russellville pitchers Darian Simmons and Andrea Dixon, the Lady Cyclones had an even tougher time with Bryant’s Peyton Jenkins who allowed just three hits, worked around three walks and struck out eight.
The Lady Cyclones’ best scoring opportunity turned out to be in the first when Kayla Sisco led off with a single and advanced to second on an illegal pitch. Kelsey White walked and Sisco got to third but Jenkins induced a fly to shallow left and, after White stole second, got the final out on a grounder to Jenna Bruick.
After the Lady Hornets went down in order in the bottom of the inning, Jenkins pitched around a walk in the second. She then gave her team its first chance to score when she beat out an infield hit in the home second. Kayla Sory blooped a single to left and, after an illegal pitch on Simmons moved the runners to second and third, the Russellville pitcher retired the next three in order to strand two.
The Lady Cyclones got third second hit, a two-out single, in the top of the third but catcher Jesse Taylor caught her trying to steal to end the inning.
Bryant then put together a two-out uprising in the home third to take the lead. Cassidy Wilson’s double off the fence despite a strong wind blowing in set the stage for Taylor to single her in to make it 1-0. Taylor went to second on the late throw to the plate then advanced to third and held there on a single to left by Jenkins who sprinted to second when the Lady Cyclones chose to hold the runner at third.
But Simmons got Sory to ground to short, ending it there.
Jenkins worked around a walk in the top of the fourth then Simmons pitched through an error that allowed Shanika Johnson to reach in the bottom of the inning.
In the fifth, Jenna Bruick beat out an infield hit and stole second to instigate Bryant’s second scoring inning. With one out, Taylor’s grounder to short was booted and Bruick was able to race home to make it 2-0.
After Jenkins walked, Johnson made a bid to knock one out but the wind held it up and she was robbed of an extra base hit at the fence in center.
Russellville managed an infield hit to start the top of the sixth but a grounder to Wilson at short started a rally-killing double play. Jenkins went on to strike out the last four Lady Cyclones to nail down the win.
Bryant made a bid to score in the bottom of the sixth off Dixon. The inning was marred by an injury to freshman Carly Yazza. With one out, Yazza reached on an error. Pinch-hitter Ashley Chaloner walked and Hannah Rice re-entered to run for her. Bruick bounced into a force at second and Yazza tried to score on the play. As she slid in, however, she injured her shoulder as she was tagged out to end the inning.
The Lady Hornets will try to improve on their 4-0 mark in the 7A-Central Conference when they travel to Conway on Thursday then to Van Buren on Friday.