Taylor’s blast, Jenkins’ gritty pitching lifts Bryant girls past tough Greenbrier team
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continue 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
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — In the kind of game you might expect from a pair of State champions with most of their players back,[more] Bryant’s Peyton Jenkins and Greenbrier’s Cecily New combined to allow just four hits. Only one of those was Bryant’s but it was the difference maker.
Jessie Taylor slugged a solo home run in the fourth inning and Jenkins with help from the Bryant defense, held on for a 1-0 win in a thriller on Friday to open play in the Lady Charging Wildcats Tournament of Champions, hosted by North Little Rock at Burns Park.
“Today was not just T.G.I.F., it was T.G.F.J.T.,” quipped Lady Hornets coach Debbie Clark. “Thanks goodness for Jessie Taylor.”
New, who has signed with UCA, stopped the Lady Hornets on one-hit last season at Greenbrier to lead her team to a 5-0 win. It was the first loss of the season for the Lady Hornets, who wound up with just two all year on the way to the Class 7A State title. New and Greenbrier went on to capture the Class 5A State crown. In Friday’s game, New allowed two walks and hit batsman for the only other baserunners Bryant could manage besides Taylor’s bomb.
“She had a great curveball,” Clark said of New. “It would look like it was going to come in on you and hit you then it would curve out and it would be a strike. What I really liked was our players were coming over after their at-bats and they were talking. Before she hit her homerun, Jessie said, ‘What we need to do — she’s not throwing that until toward the end of the count — we need to hit her before she throws that.’ And I’ll be if she didn’t step up there on the third pitch and hit it. And you knew it was gone. It was awesome.”
Though Jenkins surrendered three hits, she struck out six and pitched out of jams in the sixth and seventh to secure the victory.
The Lady Hornets advance to the tourney semifinals on Saturday at 10:15 a.m., against the winner of the Foreman-Searcy game. Foreman is the defending Class 2A champion. With a win, the Lady Hornets will play for the tourney title at 8:45 p.m. The third-place game is at 3:30.
Foreman, Clark reported, has a left-handed pitcher that has already signed to play at the University of Arkansas next year.
“We’re facing some big time competition,” she emphasized. “They don’t call it the Tournament of Champions for nothing, I’ll assure you.”
In the first game of the tournament, Clark mentioned, defending Class 4A champion Nashville led North Little Rock 3-0 until the seventh when the Lady Charging Wildcats rallied for a 4-3 win.
“That’s two really good games there to start the tournament,” she commented.
“Peyton did great,” Clark said of her pitcher’s performance. “No Greenbrier player got past second base.”
Jenkins pitched around a walk in the first then retired the side in order in the second and third innings. The Lady Panthers managed their first hit with one out in the fourth then, in the fifth, a two-out single came to naught as well.
In the sixth, it got a little intense. A lead-off walk and a sacrifice got a runner to second for the first time. Another walk put the potential go-ahead run on base. But Jenkins rebounded with a strikeout, bringing up New, one of the Lady Panthers’ top hitters as well.
“She hit the ball right in front of herself and ran into it,” Clark recounted. “So she was out.”
One close call averted, the Lady Hornets were three outs away from the victory when a single started the seventh. After a flyout to Hannah Rice in center, Jenkins issued her fourth walk to once again put the potential tying and winning runs on base. But Jenkins bore down and got the second out on a pop to Cassidy Wilson at short then ended it in style with her sixth strikeout.
“It was great,” Clark enthused. “Two really, really good teams. The girls remembered the loss from last year. So it was just one of those pride things especially after Monday.”
She was referring to Monday’s stunning 15-5 loss at White Hall, Bryant’s first setback of the season.
“As much as I want them to forget that, it’s still weighing on them,” the coach related. So, tonight, that’s all they wanted to do. Peyton came off the field after the game and said, ‘I’m back, coach.’ I said, ‘You were never gone. We were all taking a nap on Monday. You weren’t gone.’ But that’s how serious they take it.”
The win improved Bryant to 5-1 on the season.