Photos courtesy of Jon Staton
By Bridget Bauer
ALMA — Two victories Friday over Alma kept the Bryant Lady Hornets undefeated and in first place in the 6A/7A-Central Conference.
The Lady Hornets traveled to Alma and escaped with 5-3 and 7-3 triumphs. In the first contest, Bryant (10-1, 6-0) scored three runs in the first inning. Alma knotted the contest at 3-all in the third frame, and the Lady Hornets broke the tie with a run in the fifth and added another one in the sixth. In the second contest, Bryant trailed 3-2 going into the sixth inning but scored three runs in the sixth and two in the seventh to collect the victory.
“This was another double header, physically and emotionally taxing,” Bryant Coach Debbie Clark said. “We purposefully did not get a scouting report on Alma. We felt like this hurt us mentally as a team against Conway (on April 7). We played pensive, not to lose instead of to win. I had faced Alma and their coach when we were both a part of the 5A. I knew they would be well coached and fundamentally sound.”
In the first game, the Lady Hornets totaled 10 hits with Cayla McDowell, Julie Ward and Jordan Williams all smacking two apiece. Abby Staton, Daniele Singleton, Raven Loveless and Maddie Stephens each had one hit. Loveless threw the complete game and gave up seven hits while striking out seven batters and walking none.
“We scored first (which we have done in the past two games), scored with two outs and eventually extended our lead,” Clark said. “We have struggled in the past two games and again in this game with scoring again after the first inning. This offensive lull is hard on our defense and our pitchers. Alma tied us at 3, and we able to extend our lead to five late in the game and hold on. Again, the feeling of trying ‘not to lose’. Rave started and finished this game. She pitched well and is growing up fast.”
In the first inning, Ward smacked an RBI single while Loveless added a two-run single. In the fifth frame, Williams’ single sent in Sarah Evans, who was a courtesy runner for Ward. In the sixth stanza, Singleton reached on an error and eventually went home on Ward’s one-base hit.
In the second game, Stephens slapped three of Bryant’s 13 hits with Singleton and Loveless adding two apiece. Jaclynn Greenwood, Staton, McDowell, Mallory Theel, Williams and Evans all contributed one hit. Staton picked up the victory and gave up three hits, struck out 13 batters and walked three.
“Abby did a great job on the mound and, in particular the seventh inning, with two runners on,” Clark said. “Her change up shut down Alma’s hopes for coming back down at the plate.
“We struggled early offensively,” she added. “In fact, the first half of the first inning our first three hitters only saw five pitches before we were retired. Neither one of Alma’s pitchers had enough speed to throw pitches by us. We were pressing and were not patient at the plate. The girls knew what to do, they have practiced it, and they have hit this timing in games. Finally, (we don’t know who, what, when, or how caused it) our bats came alive and we competed. We answered back, scored with two outs and extended the lead.”
In the second inning, Stephens doubled and scored on Singleton’s single. In the fifth frame, Evans singled and went home on Staton’s double. The three-run sixth inning gave Bryant a 5-3 margin and was highlighted by Williams’ and Greenwood’s RBI singles with Shayla McKissock going home on a throw. In the seventh stanza, Regan Keesee scored on Theel’s RBI-groundout while Loveless crossed the plate after Singleton reached on an error.
“The wins tonight were truly a team effort, but I want to praise Maddie Stephens,” Clark said. “She has been working hard for us a courtesy runner. Tonight she ran on that field as a left fielder and then moved over to right field. She made some clutch catches and then stepped in the box and definitely didn’t look like a freshman.“
The Lady Hornets return to conference play against a 7A foe on Tuesday when they travel to Van Buren.