By Rob Patrick
WHITE HALL — On a beastly day at the White Hall City Park, the beasts of the Bryant Lady Hornets[more] got, um, out-beasted by the home-standing Lady Bulldogs. White Hall pounded out 18 hits on the way to a surprising 15-5 run-rule win over the Class 7A State defending champs.
Very little went the Lady Hornets’ way after they took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. White Hall scored three times in the bottom of the inning and five more times in the second. The Lady Bulldogs led 10-5 going into the bottom of the sixth when they put up another five-spot to end the game.
“I told them when we shook hands, ‘y’all are the big dogs today’,” said Bryant head coach Debbie Clark. “They hit the ball and hit the ball hard.
“Sometimes people want to make excuses but I don’t believe in excuses,” she noted. “I believe in getting better. This was a great lesson for us. This is why I scheduled this team because I knew. I’m friends with the coach. I know that she’s a really good coach and she has her team prepared. They were ready and it was obvious. They hit the ball and hit the ball well.”
As might be expected, the Lady Hornets, as a defending State champion with most of the team back, bring out the best in every opponent.
“And that’s okay,” Clark declared. “The target’s on us and that’s okay. We’ve got to learn to deal with it. There’s a lot of good coaching things for tomorrow’s practice that I’m going to get to use, that’s for sure.”
The Lady Hornets scored in each of the first four innings but couldn’t produce that big eruption that they often do. They got two on White Hall starter Rachel Box in the fourth to cut it to 8-5 but Sidney Clark relieved in the fifth and, after walking Kayla Sory, the first batter she faced, she set down the next six in a row (which proved to be the last six). Bryant finished with six hits, two each by Jenna Bruick and Jessie Taylor.
Bruick led off the game with a single up the middle. Cassidy Wilson sacrificed her to second and after she advanced to third when Taylor reached on an error, she scored on a wild pitch.
In the bottom of the inning, White Hall’s initial uprising began with a one-out error that allowed Clark to reach. Box, who had three hits in the game including a homer, plugged the gap in left-center for a double to set the table for Emily Grace Ruggeri. Bryant pitcher Peyton Jenkins got the first two pitches past her but her 0-2 deliver was laced to left-center for a two-run double. On the next pitch, Kayla Walters doubled off the fence to make it 3-0.
Walters would finish with four hits, Ruggeri with three.
After a walk to Haley Baugh and a sacrifice by Abby Weaver, Jenkins fanned Haley Woods to get out of the inning.
And the Lady Hornets got one of those runs back in the top of the second when Carly Yazza walked, took second on Ashley Chaloner’s groundout, third on a bounce out off the bat of Katy Stillman. Hannah Rice then struck out on a pitch in the dirt and when Walters, the White Hall catcher, couldn’t get to the ball in time, not only did Rice reach but Yazza scampered home, making it 3-2.
But a pair of walks started the Lady Bulldogs’ game-breaking outburst in the home second. Clark singled in a run then Box launched a three-run jack to make it 7-2.
Sory came on to pitch for Bryant and got the first out of the inning. But singles by Walters and Baugh then a wild pitch added another run before Sory struck out Weaver and Woods to bring the inning to a close.
Bryant kept whittling. After Wilson was robbed of a hit on a shot to third, Taylor singled to center and Jenkins drew a walk. Sory grounded into a force at second that allowed Stephanie Cyz, running for Taylor, to reach third. Yazza then came through on a 1-2 delivery, smacking a single to center for an RBI.
Sory pitched around a lead-off single by Lindsey Williams in the bottom of the third and her teammates trimmed the lead further in the fourth. Breanna Sanders singled to right and, an out later, Bruick beat out a bunt hit. Both moved up on Wilson’s long fly out to right then Taylor chased them home with a sharp single to left. Taylor took second on the throw to the plate but was stranded there as Box finished her pitching duties with a strikeout.
But Ruggeri opened the bottom of the inning with a double after fouling off three two-strike pitches. Walters beat out an infield hit as Sanders made a diving stop of her grounder to third but had no where to throw. Walters followed with a shot to Sanders’ right that she snagged with a dive again. She came up looking to throw home but, with Ruggeri running down the baseline, she couldn’t find an avenue around her to throw it and it was 9-5. Baugh then beat out a slow roller — a swinging bunt — to the left side for a single to load the bases. Sory struck out Woods but a wild pitch allowed Kaylin Doggett, running for Walters, to score.
The Lady Bulldogs loaded the bases with just one out but when Shanese Murry hit a fly to center, Hannah Rice backed up then came in to get her momentum going towards homeplate, made the catch and gunned down Baugh who was trying to tag and score. The scintillating finish to the inning appeared to give them a lift but Clark put a damper on that.
She walked Sory to start the top of the fifth. Thanks to a wild pitch and Jesseca Cudd’s grounder up the middle off Clark’s glove which was fielded by Weaver at second, Sory was able to reach third as Cudd was thrown out. But a pop up ended the inning.
White Hall, likewise, was unable to score and the game went to the sixth. After the Lady Hornets went down in order, the Lady Bulldogs struck for five runs on five hits to end it.
Bryant will try to regroup and open 7A/6A-Central Conference play on Thursday against Little Rock Central and Interstate Park. They’ll play two. On Thursday, the Lady Hornets open play in the Tournament of Champions in North Little Rock.