Lady Hornets blast Belles in State tourney opener
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
ROGERS — With star pitcher Tyler Cox unavailable while getting her knee checked out after she tweaked it during a mid-week practice, the Bryant Lady Hornets unleashed the bats to bash the Mount St. Mary’s Belles, 11-3, on Saturday, May 5, at Veterans Park, to begin their quest to return to the State championship game for the third year in a row.
The top three batters in the Lady Hornets’ order, Hailey King, Kristen Dorsey and Christan Kirchner each had three hits in the contest including one apiece during a game-breaking five-run third.
Kirchner pitched as well and scattered four hits. All three of the Belles’ runs were unearned as they benefited from a trio of Bryant errors.
It was the 30th win of the season for the Lady Hornets, the third against 7A-Central Conference rival Mount St. Mary’s. The Belles opened play at the Class 7A Tournament on Friday, ousting Fort Smith Northside 6-2.
Bryant was set to take on another league rival, North Little Rock, in the semifinals on Monday, May 7, with the availability of Cox, who pitched the Lady Hornets to two close wins over the Lady Wildcats during the regular season, unknown at press time.
The winner of Monday’s game would advance to the championship game at the University of Arkansas’ Lady Back Yard in Fayetteville on Friday, May 11, at 6 p.m., against the winner of the semifinal between Fayetteville, the defending State champion, and Bentonville.
A rematch of last year’s final remains a possibility.
Against Mount St. Mary’s, the Lady Hornets took a 1-0 lead in the second when Ashley Herndon beat out an infield hit with two away then Randie Juliusson cracked a triple to the gap in right-center.
In the bottom of the inning, the Belles tied it. Kristina Styn singled off the hand of Kirchner and advanced to second on a tap to Lindsey Cason at first. Kirchner and the Lady Hornets appeared to be out of the jam when Lauren Schuller’s bunt was fielded by Juliusson, who hustled out from behind the plate. But her throw to first sailed past Cason and Styn scored. With Schuller at second, Kirchner got lead-off hitter Breanna Wilkerson to pop to Laci Rowland at second to end the inning.
King opened Bryant’s big third inning iwth a single to right. She took second on a passed ball. Dorsey got down a perfect bunt and when the Belles chose to make sure King stopped at third, she hustled on to second. Kirchner singled in King and took second as the Belles held Dorsey at third. But a passed ball allowed Dorsey to come home, making it 3-1.
Mount St. Mary’s switched from Schuller at pitcher to ace Taylor Morgan but Cason greeted her with an RBI single to center to make it 4-1.
Cason advanced to second on a groundout by Rowland, took third when Sarah Hart’s roller to short was booted then scored on a wild pitch. Brittany Weldon, running for Hart, took third on a tap to first by Herndon then scored on a single to right by Juliusson.
Mount St. Mary’s cut a run off the lead in the bottom of the third. Lauren Naeyaert was hit by a pitch but, with Rowland making a nice play, she was forced at second on a grounder to Hart at third by Katie Bruick. Macknezie Tanner followed with a base hit and when it was misplayed in the outfield, Bruick scored all the way from first.
But the Lady Hornets bumped the margin again with two in the fourth starting with a bunt double by King. (She got the extra base when no one covered second as the Belles scrambled to try to make a play at first.) A bad hop single past first by Dorsey brought King home to make it 7-2. Kirchner sacrificed Dorsey to second and Cason grounded to the right side to get her to third. Rowland walked then got in a rundown between first and second. While Dorsey raced home, Rowland got safely into second on an errant throw.
The Belles added a run in the fifth but the Lady Hornets got two more in the sixth when Kirchner doubled and scored on a single by Rowland. Hart and Herndon followed with bunt singles with Herdon’s hit bringing in Rowland with the 10th run.
Kirchner doubled in the final run in the top of the seventh.