By Bridget Bauer
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Since Bryant was meeting conference foe Lake Hamilton in the consolation[more] final Saturday of the Tournament of Champions at Burns Park, Coach Debbie Clark didn’t want to reveal all her weapons. Additionally, a tournament is the time to experiment with the lineup.
Her experimentation paid off as the Lady Hornets escaped with a 1-0 victory. The battery was comprised of sophomore Abby Staton, who had yet to pitch in a varsity game, and freshman catcher Julie Ward. Junior Katy Stillman, who normally catches, moved to third. Freshman Sierra Jones played centerfield, and junior Kayla Jolley, who pitched the last two games, played right field.
“I’m so proud of them,” Clark said. “I told them all we did was change uniforms, but we looked like a totally different team.”
The victory was the second of the day for Bryant (earlier they defeated Nashville, 2-0), and the Lady Hornets (3-4) started looking like a team that is gelling. The two wins were much needed after a 16-1 setback to Benton last Thursday and a 5-2 loss to White Hall in the first round Friday of the tournament.
“I think Thursday the girls were so worked up emotionally,” Clark said. “It was because of Drew (Melton, Benton’s player who died last winter, was honored); our girls play with them in summer ball; it was a big conference game and was at home. After Benton jumped on us that first inning, we didn’t know what to do. Friday, we played so well even though we lost. Playing softball is like riding a bike, and tonight we got our confidence back. I wish the games wouldn’t be close, but we put ourselves in positions to win.”
Staton surrendered three hits, struck out three batters, walked two and hit one. The only time she was in real trouble was the third inning when Lake Hamilton’s Katie Carpenter doubled and reached third on a passed ball. She apparently scored on a sacrifice fly but was called out for not tagging up.
“She pitched junior varsity last year and struggled with her control, but I can see her improvement from last year to this year,” Clark said. “There is a big difference in her fastball and changeup from last year.”
Bryant pounded out seven hits but was able to just record the one run. That happened in the fifth when Ward led off with a hit between second and third. She moved to second on Brianna Davis’ sacrifice grounder. With two outs, Breanna Sanders’ RBI singled scored Ward’s courtesy runner Mercedes Dillard.
Sanders was 2-of-4 with two singles and, in addition to Ward, Kaley Coppock, Carly Yazza, Kayla Jolley and Davis also tallied singles.
The Lady Hornets are scheduled to play a conference doubleheader at J.A. Fair on Tuesday, March 26. They host Sheridan on Thursday, March 28.