Lady Hornets move a win away from State tourney bye
EDITOR’S NOTE: In this time of COVID-19, with no sports action, BryantDaily.com will be posting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By ROB PATRICK
The Bryant Lady Hornets took over sole possession of second place in the 7A-Central Conference and kept hopes for a share of the league championship alive with a pair of comeback wins over the Mount St. Mary’s Belles on Senior Night on Thursday, May 1.
In the first game, the Lady Hornets trailed 1-0 after the first inning but tied it in the fifth and added what proved to be the winning run in the sixth for a 2-1 victory. In the nightcap, they fell behind 4-2 after three innings rallied to take a 7-4 lead in the fifth and, after the Belles trimmed it to 7-6 in the sixth, broke the game open with a six-run uprising in the seventh for a 13-6 victory.
The wins improved the Lady Hornets to 18-5 overall and 11-2 in league play, a game behind North Little Rock. And, coupled with Conway’s loss to Cabot, they took over second going into the final contest of the regular season. Bryant was scheduled to play at Pine Bluff on Tuesday, May 6, while North Little Rock and Conway play each other. Victories by Bryant and Conway would forge a tie for the league title between the Lady Hornets and the Lady Wildcats and both would receive first-round byes in the Class 7A State Tournament in Russellville. With a win at Pine Bluff, the Lady Hornets could do no worse than second, garnering the bye as well.
On Thursday, the Belles scored on a pair of singles and a two-out error in the first inning of the opener but Bryant pitcher Christen Kirchner and the defense shut them out the rest of the game. Kirchner didn’t allow another hit until the top of the seventh when the game came to a dramatic conclusion.
With a runner at first and two out, Mount St. Mary’s cleanup hitter Gabby Escovedo hit a drive to center. The runner at first tried to score on the play but a relay from Kristen Dorsey in center to Kirchner to catcher Sarah Hart was in time for the tag for the third out.
The Lady Hornets struggled at the plate as well. After Dorsey led off the bottom of the first with a single, 13 in a row were set down before Hart singled up the middle with one out in the fifth. Courtesy runner Morgan Seelinger stole second, took third when Shanika Johnson’s grounder to short was booted and scored on a base hit by Lindsey Cason.
In the sixth, Kim Wilson led off with a double. She stole third and scored when Kirchner reached on an error.
Mount St. Mary’s had baserunners in every inning. Kirchner worked around a walk in the second, an error and a hit batter in the third, another error in the fourth and, in the fifth, a walk and another miscue. In the sixth, another error allowed the lead-off batter to reach but Hart threw her out trying to steal and Kirchner struck out the next two to keep it tied.
In the second game, the Belles broke out on top again, scoring twice in the bottom of the first. The Lady Hornets loaded the bases in the second but couldn’t get a run in. In the third, however, they knotted it up. Paige Turpin doubled and scored on a base hit by Kirchner. Wilson got Kirchner to second with a groundout and, when Kirchner stole third, a wild throw allowed her to score the tying run.
In the bottom of the third, however, the Belles regained the lead. After Hart had made a splendid diving catch of a foul pop for the second out of the inning, Lauren Mayer singled up the middle and Escovedo powered a two-run homer to left.
It stayed 4-2 until the fifth when a walk to Kirchner opened up what turned out to be a five-run outburst for the Lady Hornets. Wilson sacrificed her to second and when the Belles relaxed, she sprinted on to third. Mo McDaniel got a bunt down to drive in the run and, when a throw to first got through, she was able to race to third. Hart singled her in to tie the game.
Seelinger, running for Hart, stole second (one of eight steals in the game for the Lady Hornets), and scored on a single to right by Brandi Barnes.
Kristen Morehart, running for Barnes, stole second and took third on a wild pitch as Cason drew a walk. Cason stole second but Morehart, trying to score on a bunt by Johnson was tagged out.
But that brought up the top of the batting order. Dorsey singled in a run and Johnson followed home when Turpin’s grounder to third got past Cheyenne Harper.
In the bottom of the fifth, Courtney Wharton walked for the Belles. Kirchner, who struck out nine in the game, fanned the next two to bring up Escovedo who drilled another long fly to left. But Turpin faded back to the fence, reached up and pulled down the long fly which might’ve cleared the fence to end the inning.
But the Belles weren’t through. In the sixth a trio of singles produced two runs. With the potential tying and lead runs on first and second and Mayer, Mount’s top hitter, on deck, Kirchner induced an infield pop from Harper and grabbed it for the third out to keep it 7-6.
And the Lady Hornets countered with the game-breaking six-run seventh. Again, a walk got things started, this time to Johnson. Dorsey reached on an error and Turpin came through with a sacrifice fly to get Johnson home. Kirchner singled and when the Belles just held the ball trying to keep Dorsey from scoring, Kirchner took second. RBI singles by Wilson and McDaniel followed, the latter a shot off pitcher Loren Schuler, that forced her out of the game.
Hart walked and, after Barnes grounded into a force at third, Cason ripped an RBI double. Bonnie Stroud, running for Barnes capped off the scoring when she came home on a wild pitch.
The Belles managed singles by Mayer and Kristen Kaplan in the bottom of the seventh but Kirchner ended it by fanning Christina Styn and getting Audrey Lloyd on a comebacker.