Photos courtesy of Jon Staton
By Bridget Bauer
ROGERS — Bryant’s combination of miscues and only four hits for the game led to a 6-1 setback to North Little Rock in the semifinals of the Class 7A State tournament Saturday at Veteran’s Park.
While the Lady Hornets (17-6) scattered four hits, the two-time defending champion Lady Charging Wildcats (16-8) recorded their eight hits in innings two, three and four. A three-run third frame gave North Little Rock a 4-1 lead that Bryant couldn’t overcome.
“We went to State last year but didn’t get this far,” Bryant Coach Debbie Clark said. “We have to take care of our side of the book, and we have not done that in the last few games in an astounding, compounding, chokehold way. I’m not sure why we aren’t producing the hits because we did earlier in the year.”
After both teams went 1-2-3 in the first inning, North Little Rock took a lead and slowly pulled away from the Lady Hornets. After notching one run in the second stanza on two hits, the key to the Lady Wildcats’ victory was the three-run third. They smacked four singles in the frame including three in a row to take the 4-1 margin. Two hits in the fourth inning along with two Bryant errors led to another run and a 5-1 advantage. In the bottom of the sixth, North Little Rock took advantage of three walks and one error to tally another run for the final margin.
Bryant freshman Raven Loveless pitched four innings and gave up the eight hits in addition to striking out two batters and walking none. Abby Staton threw the last three innings and yielded no hits, walked four batters and struck out one.
“Raven’s drop ball was great yesterday (in a 3-1 victory over Rogers Heritage),” Clark said. “She’s a hitter’s pitcher, and great hitters make adjustments on every pitch.”
Bryant had a chance to score runs in the bottom of the fifth after North Little Rock pitcher Rachel Gregory struggled and walked three batters. At one time, she threw seven straight balls and eight in nine pitches. Bryant had the bases loaded with two outs but couldn’t cash in.
“We knew if we got to her, we would have a chance,” Clark said. “We beat them before (2-1 on April 6), but they played lights out.”
The Lady Hornets’ lone run occurred in the bottom of the second after Shayla McKissock singled with one out and went home on Macey Jaramillo’s blooper to right field. In addition to McKissock and Jaramillo, Cayla McDowell singled in the second inning and Regan Ryan in the third frame.
“After the game, we talked about relationships and connecting with our teammates,” Clark said. “Yes, we would have liked to win but these girls have built connections with each other. I told them it doesn’t sound like a lot right now, but later on it will. I told them it hurts right now because it was an important game to them, but pretty soon they will get back to normal.”