Softball team regroups after tragedy
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).
It had to be tough for the Bryant Lady Hornets softball team to play their AAAAA-Central Conference game against the Mount St. Mary’s Belles at Sherwood on Thursday, April 1. Earlier in the day, the players attended the funeral of a teammate’s father after his sudden, tragic passing. It certainly was understandable that there wasn’t much spark that evening beyond the fact that one of their team leaders, junior Kaci Melhorn was out of the lineup.
The Lady Hornets suffered a 7-1 loss that evening, managing just two hits against the Belles’ Shannon Adams and some pretty good defense.
Bryant was, however, able to bounce back over the weekend to win two of three games and finish third at a tournament in Harrison, following that long trip up with another on Monday, April 5, to Camden where they defeated the Fairview Lady Cardinals, 11-5.
The results improved the young Bryant team’s record to 4-8 but with some momentum as it heads into the meat of its schedule. They were set to visit Little Rock McClellan on Tuesday, April 6, then host a doubleheader against Little Rock Central on Thursday, April 8; all conference games.
Against Mount St. Mary’s, the Lady Hornets fell behind 1-0 in the first, then a three-run third that included a pair of Bryant errors increased the lead.
Up to that point, the Lady Hornets had only managed one baserunner — Heather Gephardt had walked in the first inning. Amie Hubbard led off the fourth with the first hit, a single up the middle. She advanced to second on a groundout by Allison Grappe but was stranded when Kara Vaughn was robbed of a hit by Belles shortstop Katie Bruick to end the inning.
The Lady Hornets were unable to take advantage of a lead-off walk to Kelly Norman to start the fifth and, in the bottom of the inning, Mount St. Mary’s added a pair of runs to its lead.
In the sixth, Hubbard reached on a one-out error, stole second and third but was stranded. The Belles tacked on a final run in the bottom of the inning.
Bryant’s second hit came in the top of the seventh, a two-out single by Keisha Stickley.
The disappointment of that loss was reversed considerably when the Lady Hornets opened the Harrison Tournament with a come-from-behind win over Fayetteville.
Through six innings, Bryant had managed just two baserunners — a one-out walk to Vaughn in the fourth and a one-out single by Kayla Pitts in the sixth. Fayetteville had built a 5-0 lead but, in the seventh, the Lady Hornets rallied for seven runs to secure the win.
The big inning began when Vaughn reached on an error. Hubbard followed with a triple. She scored on a groundout by Gephardt to make it 5-2. With two down, Stickley got things revved up again with a single. Hailey King drew a walk then Brittany Grant’s fly to center was misplayed as the merry-go-round cranked up. After Pitts walked, Randi Jullison reached on an error then Vaughn cleared the bases with a triple to cap the inning off.
Norman and the Lady Hornets defense retired Fayetteville 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning to secure the victory.
That set up a duel with Jacksonville that was scoreless through five inning. Jacksonville finally broke through with two runs in the top of the sixth, stringing together four consecutive hits.
Bryant, which hadn’t had a baserunner all game, made a bid to tie it in the bottom of the seventh when Vaughn slapped a one-out single to right and Hubbard doubled into the gap. But both were stranded putting the Lady Hornets in the consolation game against Harrison.
This time, the Lady Hornets jumped on top early, scoring three in the first and two in the second. Vaughn was the first-inning instigator with a one-out triple. She scored on a bunt by Hubbard that Harrison misplayed. A bunt hit by Melhorn kept the inning going. Norman sacrificed then both Hubbard and Melhorn eventually scored as Gephardt and Jullison earned two-out walks.
In the second, Stickley was hit by a pitch with one out. Vaughn’s bunt drew a wild throw then when Hubbard’s bunt was misplayed, both runs scored.
Harrison managed a run in the top of the fourth with the help of a couple of Bryant errors but the Lady Hornets got that back in the bottom of the inning when Vaughn singled and Hubbard ripped a triple over the center fielder’s head.
Harrison rallied for four in the fifth but the Lady Hornets got out of the inning with a lead. In the top of the sixth, a lead-off single gave the Lady Goblins hope, but Vaughn and the Lady Hornets shut them down and closed out the win.