Last spring, the Bryant Lady Hornets went 28-5 overall and ran unbeaten through the 7A-Central Conference, 14-0. The team leader in homers (8), runs batted in (39), runs scored (39) and doubles (12) was junior second baseman Sarah Evans.
But very few colleges were interested in recruiting her.
“Ever since I was in the seventh or eighth grade, I started emailing coaches every week, every two weeks and just continued to email multiple coaches,” she related on Friday. “I started going first for the big D-1 schools like Missouri but, when I went up there, they said, ‘Oh, we’re sorry. You’re a 5-1 catcher. We’re not even going to look at you anymore.’”
“So, I kind of stopped believing that I could go to a D-1 because of my height,” she continued. “So, I started talking to more in-state schools, smaller schools. I was considering UCA or maybe Harding but I was always competing with another girl and I always got shot down.”
But Evans did not let that get her down.
“It made me work harder,” she explained. “So, when they see me later, it’ll just make them regret their decision. I just have so much heart for this game.”
Enter Jason Anderson, the head softball coach at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia.
Recalled Evans, “I actually went to a round-robin over there, a small tournament the summer after my freshman year and I stood out. He loved that about me. That’s probably when I started emailing him a lot more. I loved the campus. I loved the atmosphere. I loved the country-home-town kind of feel.”
And, on Friday, Evans, the daughter of Darren and Marie Evans, made it official, signing her letter of intent to continue her education and her softball career at SAU following her senior season next spring at BHS.
“They’re getting a whole lot of player in a compact package,” stated Lady Hornets head coach Lisa Dreher. “She has all the tools to play at the next level and I knew that she could do it. I’m just glad that Coach Anderson saw it in her. He recruits for hitting and that’s what he’s getting with Sarah.
“I know a lot of big schools turned her down because of her size — Sarah’s pushing 5-feet but the power, you just can’t describe it,” she continued.
Perhaps the most notable of her eight blasts last season came early on in the season. Dreher and her players thought they had a chance to be very good but, on a night in March, they proved to themselves they were special. Hosting the defending Class 6A State champion Sheridan Lady Jackets with a lot of their players back, the Lady Hornets battled back and forth in a slugfest. Evans hit a home run early then, the game went to the final inning tied. To start the bottom of the seventh, Evans ripped a towering drive over the fence, over the grassy area between the fence and the parking lot and into the parking lot for a walk-off victory.
“I think it was at that point that the team really saw our capabilities and knew that we had something special out there,” Dreher stated.
“That was the highlight of my year,” Evans acknowledged. “Not just that I hit one home run in that game but I hit two then the second one was the one that won it. I have never felt more excitement.”
“The power that she has is just not seen a lot,” Dreher explained. “It’s something you can’t really coach. She just has the explosive power. You can do some stuff to help them with that but a lot of its just natural.
“And her home runs were very timely last year including that walk-off,” the coach noted. “I’ve never seen one hit that hard at our field.”
“We had an amazing run last year,” said Evans. “This is going to be such a special year. It’s going to be so memorable.”
It’s the Lady Hornets this spring that will have just about everyone returning. They expect big things.
“Sarah’s very coachable,” Dreher said. “She tends to always have a good attitude. She’s a positive leader out on the field where we need it. She’s not an extremely vocal leader but everybody’s aware of her presence and what she does for us.”
Not just a slugger, Dreher lauded Evans’ defense too.
“She was solid at second. I was confident when it was hit on the ground to the right side. I knew she was going to be somewhere near the ball.
“The thing about her is she’s willing to play different positions and give it her all,” the coach continued. “And this year may not be an exception to that. But I know she’s going to do well at whatever position because she’s going to go just as hard as she did at second last year.
“She’s real smart about the game. I think she’s clutch. She doesn’t appear to tense up and her stats prove that she doesn’t. She’s tough.”
The toughness was evident when, in seventh grade, Evans went out for and made the Bethel Middle School football team.
“When I first heard about her, that was one of the things people told me,” Dreher said. “As I’ve gotten to know the athlete that she is I understand that she actually had an impact on their team and did well. That goes right along with her personality. She thinks like she’s six-feet tall. Honestly, I think she has more power than larger girls.”
For the football team, Evans played wide receiver, cornerback, safety and tight end along the way. She was also a stalwart on special teams.
“What started it was, it was in middle school, we’d always play ‘jackpot’ in the Bethel street,” she recalled. “It was Coach S, he was like, ‘Why don’t you try out for the football team?’ I was like, ‘Okay, why not?’ One of my real good friends was going to tryout with me but she chickened out and I stuck with it. I actually made the team and wound up starting.”
Going into her freshman year, however, Evans had a decision to make, football or softball. It wasn’t that tough.
“When I was playing football, I enjoyed it very much but it could never compare to the passion I have for softball,” she said.
“When I think of Sarah, I think of perseverance,” Dreher concluded. “She’s one of the toughest athletes I’ve coached. When you see Sarah, especially out there, it doesn’t matter what kind of practice we’re having, she’s probably going to be dirty from head to toe. That’s one thing, as a coach, that I really appreciate, just the willingness to put it all out there. That’s what Sarah does.”