Loveless clutch in Bryant’s 21st straight conference win

CONWAY — With the other half of the Bryant Lady Hornets’ pitching duo (Gianni Hulett) on crutches in the dugout, senior Raven Loveless took on the challenge of going the distance in the circle on Tuesday night against the Conway Lady Cats and proceeded to limit them to two runs on five hits in seven innings.

Initially, that looked like it might be enough for the Lady Cats but, when it came to crunch time, Bryant’s bats came through with a run in the top of the sixth and four in the top of the seventh as the Lady Hornets rallied for a 5-2 win in 7A-Central Conference play.

They improved to 20-2 overall this season and 7-0 in league play, maintaining sole possession of first place in light of Cabot’s 5-3 win over North Little Rock. Cabot’s lone conference loss was to Bryant a week ago.

Tuesday’s win was Bryant’s 21stin a row in conference.

“(Raven) threw a real good game,” said Lady Hornets coach Lisa Dreher. “He (the umpire) was kind of squeezing the zone but that was on both sides. We had to work around that a little bit offensively and Raven. She pitched real well.

“She came up big,” she continued. “She always seems to come up big when we need her. I didn’t really expect anything less.”

Bryant wound up pounding out 12 hits, two each from Loveless, Maddie Stephens, Sarah Evans, Meagan Chism, Maddie Thompson and Bella Herring. Loveless came through with the hit that put the Lady Hornets on top, a two-run single in the top of the seventh.

The game was scoreless going into the bottom of the third. After the Lady Hornets had come up empty despite a single by Stephens and a double by Evans with one out in the top of the third, Conway put up a run in the home half. A one-out error allowed Megan Solberg to reach safety. Another error let Saige Teague get on base. Holly Stewart grounded to Evans at short and she threw to Thompson at third for a force. But McKenzie Campbell delivered the run on a line drive single, the first hit of the game for Conway.

Thompson singled with one out in the top of the fourth, was sacrificed to second by Herring but was stranded.

In the bottom of the inning, there were two down when T’yauna Rector singled, took second on an error and third on a base hit by Tremere Harris. Another error allowed Solberg to reach first as Rector scored to make it 2-0.

The Lady Hornets were retired in order in the top of the fifth then Loveless worked around a two-out hit in the home half.

Chism led off the sixth with a single to center and Loveless followed with a base hit to left. When Brooklyn Trammell hit a long fly to right, both tagged and moved up a base. Thompson then beat out a bunt single to get Chism home.

Though Thompson stole second, she and Loveless were stranded.

Conway’s Emily Cecil beat out an infield hit to start the home sixth. She was sacrificed to second and got to third when Harris bounced out to Evans at short.

Loveless then set up the game-breaking Bryant rally by striking out Solberg to strand Cecil at third.

Stephens’ one-out single to left got the Lady Hornets going in the top of the seventh. Evans lined a single to left then Chism shot a base hit to left to load the bases for Loveless.

After a pitching change, Loveless worked the count to 3-1 before slapping her two-run single to right. On the late throw to the plate, Chism went to third and Loveless took second.

So, when Trammell hit a fly to center, Chism tagged and scored to make it 4-2. Thompson was struck by a pitch then Herring cracked a single to right to get Loveless home. Thompson tried to score but was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

Loveless and the infield defense put the game away in the home seventh as Teague and Stewart grounded out to Evans. Trammell, at first, came off the bag to catch Evans’ throw and got the tag on Stewart in time for the second out. Loveless then speared S Reed’s bouncer, got up and threw her out at first to end the game.

The 7A-Central Conference makes its mid-season turn at this point. Bryant opens the second half of the season with Fort Smith Northside coming to town on Wednesday.

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