Lady Hornets to play for State title
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).
ROGERS — Kara Vaughan pitched a two-hit shutout and the Bryant Lady Hornets scored the only run of the game on a throwing error in the top of the eighth inning as they knocked off AAAAA-West Conference champion Fayetteville, 1-0, on Tuesday, May 10, to advance to the Class AAAAA State Championship game.
On Saturday, May 14, at the Lady Back Yard on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, the Lady Hornets will play their Saline County rivals, the Benton Lady Panthers for the fourth time this season with the State championship on the line. Benton advanced with a 2-1 win over Bentonville on Tuesday.
At 22-10 and seeded second out of the AAAAA-Central Conference, the Lady Hornets are the Cinderella team of the tournament. Fayetteville was the second league champion they knocked off during their run to the title game.
“It feels real good, just amazing,” stated Lady Hornets head coach Lisa Spears, “an awesome feeling. The girls did all the right things at the right times. They just stayed at it. It was a great ball game.”
Keisha Stickley, placed at second in accordance with the international tiebreaker, to start the top of the eighth was sacrificed to third by Randi Juliusson. Amie Hubbard followed with a bunt but Fayetteville held Stickley to third allowing Hubbard to reach base. After she stole second, Amanda Grappe hit a sinking liner to center that was snared with a diving catch by the Fayetteville outfielder, who hastily came up throwing to try to hold Stickley at third, even through Hubbard had broken off second anticipating the ball falling in. But the throw to the plate got past the Fayetteville catcher and Stickley, who had also been running, was able to get back, tag up and score.
In the bottom of the inning, Fayetteville too started with a runner at second. The Lady Bulldogs tried to sacrifice but the bunt was popped up and Juliusson, the Bryant catcher, snagged it for the first out. The next batter tapped back to Vaughan for out number two as the baserunner took third. The final out followed, however, on a roller to Allison Grappe at first, setting off the Lady Hornets’ celebration.
Vaughan struck out three in the game and held Fayetteville without a hit over the final five innings. The Lady Bulldogs’ only two singles came from Fayetteville’s Jessica Reed in the first and third innings.
“They never hit the ball sharply,” Spears noted. “And we played really good defense.”
The third inning proved to be Fayetteville’s best chance to score. Reed’s hit came after a batter had been hit by a pitch, putting runners at first and second with two out. But the next batter grounded out to second to end the inning.
The Lady Hornets had baserunners on all game long. They just couldn’t string their hits together. Hubbard had a hit in the first, Allison Grappe singled in the second with Kaci Melhorn, Amanda Grappe and Vaughan accounting for hits in the fourth, sixth and seventh, respectively.
The Lady Hornets and Lady Panthers have played three previous times this season, Bryant has won two of those games.