Lady Hornets split first two games at Benton tourney

BENTON — The Bryant Lady Hornets, coming off a thrilling win over the defending Class 6A State champion Sheridan Lady Jackets the night before, pinned a 6-4 loss on the defending Class 5A State champion Vilonia Lady Eagles to open play in the annual Drew Melton “Forever Young” Invitational Tournament on Friday.

The win bumped their overall record this season to 4-0 but, to follow up, they absorbed their first loss, a 2-1 decision to the Lady Cardinals of Benton Harmony Grove, who reached the semifinals of the Class 3A State Tournament last year. Both games were limited to five innings.

Weather prevented the rest of the tournament, which included 16 of the best teams in the state. The Lady Hornets are set to play at Lake Hamilton on Monday.

In the victory, Madison Lyles and Macey Jaramillo had two hits each with Sarah Evans driving in three runs.

The game was tied 2-2 after two innings until Bryant erupted for four runs in the top of the fifth. The rally was ignited by Maddie Thompson, in as a pinch-hitter. She singled to left. Though she was forced out at second on Regan Ryan’s grounder to short, Ryan stole second as Lyles was working a walk.

Gianni Hulett walked to load the bases for Evans who cleared them with a drive to left for a double. Jaramillo singled her to third then Meagan Chism’s sacrifice fly made it 6-2.

The Lady Eagles rallied in the home half of the inning. Callie Eary singled up the middle and took second on a wild pitch. Abby Hightower followed with a shot that Evans speared at second to save a run.

But a walk to Sydney Johnson kept the inning going and pinch-hitter Kortanie Ruhland singled to center to drive in a run. An infield hit by Skylar Lee made it 6-4 before Hulett, the Bryant pitcher, snagged a liner back to the circle and Chism, the catcher, nailed the lead runner trying to steal third to end the game.

Bryant took the lead initially in the top of the first when Lyles doubled with one out, Hulett bunted and Vilonia pitcher Tori Wilbanks threw it away.

Raven Loveless, the Lady Hornets’ starting pitcher, worked around a two-out single and an error in the home half.

In the second, Jaramillo lined a single to left and pinch-runner Regan Keesee stole her way to third, scoring when the ball got away at third base.

Down 2-0, the Lady Eagles took advantage of a pair of Bryant errors to tie it in the home second.

In the loss to Harmony Grove, there were only six hits between the two teams. The Lady Hornets managed just two of those, singles by Loveless and Ryan.

The Lady Cardings grabbed a 2-0 lead on a walk to Baylee Rowton and consecutive singles by Leighton Withers, Grace Bryant and Kinsey Bryant.

Harmony Grove managed just one hit off of Hulett after that.

Bryant threatened in the top of the second when Evans and Jaramillo led off with walks. After a force at second on a grounder to short by Chism, Maddie Stephens drew a free pass. But Grace Bryant, the Harmony Grove pitcher, retired the next two to keep it 2-0.

In the fourth, the Lady Hornets broke through. Evans walked again and, with one out, Chism’s fly to center was misplayed. A free pass to Stephens loaded the bases again. Thompson hit a grounder to second that resulted in a force out at the plate but Loveless beat out an infield hit to get Chism home.

But that’s all the Lady Hornets could get as they stranded three. In their final shot in the top of the fifth, they were retired in order.

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