Lady Hornets out-mash Van Buren in State opener

BENTONVILLE — That fight that Bryant Lady Hornets head coach Lisa Dreher said that she liked to see from her team in their regular-season finale against the rival Benton Lady Panthers showed up again on Thursday in the first round of the Class 6A State Softball Tournament. And this time, it resulted in a hard-earned victory, 10-8, over the Van Buren Lady Pointers.

Bryant, now 19-12, spotted Van Buren a 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the third. After a short interruption due to rain, the Lady Hornets roared back, scoring 10 runs in the next three innings. Van Buren tried to come back but Bryant held them off for the victory.

The Lady Hornets advance to play the Bentonville West Lady Wolverines on Friday at 3 p.m. The Lady Wolverines were the champions of the 6A-West Conference with a 22-3 record. Last year, an upstart West team knocked the Lady Hornets out of state with a 3-2 win on the way to the championship game.

Aly Bowers had three hits including a double and a triple. She drove in four. Meagan Chism doubled and homered while Caitlin LaCerra had three hits and Regan Dillon two.

Dreher used three pitchers to give Van Buren different looks. Lexi Helton started and was relieved by Christine Mefford in the second. Hannah Work took over in the third and finished the game, scattering four hits over 4 1/3 innings, allowing three runs, two earned with three walks and two strikeouts.

Cali Jones and Brook Fancher each had three hits for Van Buren.

The Lady Pointers took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second when Ashlynn Kinsey doubled, Fancher beat out a bunt single and took second on a late throw to third. Leah Wilkins doubled both home.

Helton got Richelle Stacy to fly to Joely Calhoun in foul territory down the leftfield line but a walk to Maddie Mills led to the entrance of Mefford to the circle. She got the final out of the inning by inducing Katianne Bramlett to pop out to LaCerra in center.

Bowers singled and to third on an errant pickoff throw. Haleigh Beck walked but both were stranded in the bottom of the second.

And Van Buren struck for three more runs in the top of the third. Fancher’s two-out triple scored two then Stacy singled her home to make it 5-0.

After the rain delay, a walk loaded the bases and Work relieved, getting the final out on Bramlett’s grounder to second.

Sparked by Chism’s double to start the bottom of the third, the Lady Hornets whittled on the lead. LaCerra’s beat out her bunt for a single then Chism, who advanced to third on the play, scored on a squeeze bunt by Maddie Thompson.

LaCerra wound up at third on a passed ball as Dillon drew a walk. Another passed ball allowed her to score before Bowers ripped a double to center to plate Dillon, making it 5-3.

Work pitched around an error and a walk in the top of the fourth. Ashlynn Kinsey’s grounder to Thompson at third resulted in a force there then Work got Fancher on a comebacker.

Bryant grabbed the lead with a five-run fifth. Beck singled and Herring hit a double. Avari Allen, running for Beck, scored on the play to make it 5-4 but Herring was thrown out trying to reach third. 

With two down, it appeared the inning might be over until, on a 2-0 pitch, Chism belted her home to left to tie the game.

The inning revved up again as the speedy LaCerra beat out an infield hit, Thompson singled to left and Dillon beat out a grounder to short, loading the bases. Bowers cleared them with a drive to center that went for a three-run triple and an 8-5 lead.

A one-out walk came to naught for Van Buren in the top of the fifth. In the home half, the Lady Hornets tacked on what proved to be vital insurance. Beck walked, Calhoun beat out a bunt hit then on an errant throw both runs wound up scoring.

The Lady Pointers scratched out a run in the top of the sixth when Jones singled, took second on a passed ball, third on Alexcia Treho’s groundout then scored on a sacrifice fly by Janelle Parga.

Work then struck out Kinsey to end the inning.

Despite a lead-off walk to Thompson and a single by Dillon, the Lady Hornets were unable to score more in the home sixth.

Van Buren rallied to start the seventh. Fancher beat out a swinging bunt for a single. An out later, Stacy doubled her in. A wild pitch got Stacy to third as Mills drew another walk. Bramlett grounded out as the Lady Hornets traded a run for the second out of the inning. And, though Jones beat out an infield hit to put the potential tying runs on base, Work got Trejo to bounce out to Thompson at third to end the game.

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