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Arkansas softball notebook: Bryant getting better all-around hitting in preparation for run in 6A playoffs

News and notes from around Arkansas prep softball

By Buck Ringgold

A season ago, Bryant reached the 6A softball semifinals.

The Lady Hornets are on pace to potentially have another deep postseason run in 2022 as they stand in second place in the 6A-Central at 7-1 following Thursday's 11-1 win on the road at Fort Smith Northside. 

One reason Bryant coach Lisa Dreher thinks her team has a good chance to get as far again and potentially even play for the 6A title has been improved hitting.

With the exception of the Lady Hornets' lone conference loss, a 7-1 decision to first-place Cabot earlier this month, Bryant has been scoring runs in bunches.

"We've been hitting the ball, except for that one game against Cabot; we just couldn't put it in play and very uncharacteristic for our girls, so hopefully when we see them again, we'll be able to come back and hit it like we're supposed to," Dreher said.

Since that loss to Cabot, the Lady Hornets have scored 11, 12 and 11 runs again in winning three straight. Bryant (15-4, 7-1) won its first seven games of the season, and the Lady Hornets' other three losses came against out-of-state teams in a spring break tournament in March.

"We didn't have very many games where we had over five or six runs and we struggled to string them together," Dreher said. "I feel like our offensive depth is a lot better this year and we added Aly (White, a sophomore) to our pitching staff, so that's helped. Chrissy (Medford, a senior), our other pitcher, has been able to play outfield and do a little more in the field for us this year."

White has given Bryant another dimension with her performance in the circle. In Thursday's win, she threw shutout ball over the first four innings, only allowing a fifth-inning home run.

"She just keeps them off-balance," senior catcher Regan ‘Buddha’ Dillon said of White. "She hits her spots well and she doesn't miss, so it's hard to hit it when she hits her spots, so that helps."

Helping set the tone for the Lady Hornets' offense is junior infielder Abby Gentry, who bats lead-off.

"Abby is hitting probably .625 right now, and I think she went 4-for-4 (Thursday)," Dreher said. "Just a great hitter, and doesn't seem to ever (let opponents) get in her head or anything.

"She's in the lead-off spot, so it's a great way to lead the game off with her, but we have a lot of power hitters and a lot of girls who like to swing the bat."

Dreher's players also agree the offense has really taken off.

"Our bats have really helped this year; one through nine can really hit through the lineup," Dillon said. "Then our defense has been backing it up, but really our hitting has helped us a lot this year."

The Lady Hornets also believe better team chemistry has helped.

"We've all been able to get along really well together; there doesn't seem to be anyone ever left out, and it's really nice to see all the girls get along and everybody be happy and laughing all the time," Mefford said.

Bryant is at home Tuesday for another conference game, this time against Mount St. Mary. The Lady Hornets will go to Cabot on April 29 in a game which will likely decide the conference title.

"I think it's going to be key for us to hit the better pitching," Dreher said. "It's one thing being able to hit it against semi-good pitching, but when they start spinning it and burn a little bit better, we've still got to be able to put the ball in play."


The Scrapperettes forced a first-place tie in 4A-7 after traveling to Bauxite on Thursday and coming away with a 6-0 win. That allowed Nashville to move into a tie atop the conference with Bauxite at 8-1.

It also avenged a 1-0 loss to the Lady Miners, a game that was played March 15 in Nashville.

"We knew it was going to be a great atmosphere," Nashville coach Boomer Brown said. "Bauxite is a really good team.

"I think our team was big-time disappointed in our performance in our first matchup. I loved the mindset we had all day. Maci (McJunkins, a senior pitcher) did an incredible job keeping their big sticks off balance."

McJunkins threw a one-hit shutout and struck out 16 batters in Thursday's win. She also hit a solo homer.

Then her battery mate, sophomore catcher Emalea Bailey, added a two-run homer, while junior Emma Hutchison doubled and drove in two runs.

Nashville (15-4, 8-1) has also won 11 of 13 games since that loss to Bauxite. The only two losses in that span were to 6A contender Rogers and defending 5A champion Benton in the latter's home tournament earlier in April.

"I think the way we played in the Benton tournament gave us a boost," Brown said. "We know when Maci is getting ahead in the count and playing solid defense behind her, we will be a in a lot of games.

"We have a little power and can mix it up with some small game, along with some speed in the lineup as well."

Nashville resumes conference play Tuesday at Hope and has a home game Friday against Arkadelphia.

Fort Smith Northside

The Lady Bears had an impressive start to 6A-Central play but have hit a bit of a rough patch. They dropped their third straight conference game with Thursday's 11-1 home loss to Bryant.

But Northside head coach David Little has still liked what he has seen from his young team, which has only one senior starter.

"Up and down the lineup, I have been pleased," Little said. "We have struggled with some of the top-tier pitchers in the league; we've got to get better against the top-tier pitchers and cut down on our strikeouts, but overall, I've been pleased so far.

"We've got a couple of freshmen that's really stepped up, and then Danessa Teague, our only senior starter, she makes plays play after play at shortstop and she gets a lot of clutch hits."

Northside (9-9, 3-4) started out 6A-Central play at 3-1, capped by a 5-4 road win at Conway on April 1. But the Lady Bears turned around and dropped a home game to North Little Rock before falling to league-leading Cabot and then Bryant.

The Lady Bears are also learning to adjust with a new battery, having had pitcher Cailin Massey and catcher Chloe Ray each of the past three seasons. Both are now playing in college; Massey at Prairie View A&M in Texas and Ray now at Arkansas Rich Mountain in Mena.

"It's different but I tell you what, (sophomore pitcher) Mallory Craig, she competes so hard and she's got a heart as big as a lion and I love how she works out here," Little said.

"Then (freshman) Addison Foster behind the plate; she's a freshman but she doesn't play like a freshman. She's handled herself really, really well behind the plate and at the plate batting."

Another freshman, Eden Davis, accounted for Northside's lone Thursday by hitting a solo home run right down the left field line in the fifth inning.

The Lady Bears, currently fifth in the conference, are at home again Tuesday to face Little Rock Central while traveling to Mount St. Mary on Thursday. Northside beat both of those teams in the first half of the conference round-robin, including 9-2 at Central on March 17.

"The future really looks promising for Northside, but we're not worried about the future, we're worried about this year and we've got to continue to get better," Little said. "We're struggling at the plate these last couple of games, but we've just got to keep working and battle through it and get ready for state next month."

Van Buren

A late rally to salvage the second game of a doubleheader last week continues to have ramifications in the 5A-West and sets up a first-place showdown this Tuesday.

Van Buren seemed to be on the verge of being swept at Alma last Tuesday. The Airedalettes took the opening game, 5-3, and were leading the second game, 6-2, through four innings.

But the Lady Pointers rallied to tie the score at 6-all, forcing extra innings. Both teams then scored a run in the eighth; and in the ninth, Van Buren got three runs in the top half of that inning to hang on for a 10-8 win.

Riley Lowrey provided the eventual go-ahead run on an RBI single, and Van Buren got insurance with RBI hits from Tessa Leonard and Jocelyn Parga. Alma got the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, but Lady Pointer second baseman Maddie Mills caught a pop fly to end it.

The twin bill split allowed Van Buren (12-5, 6-2) to remain in first place in the 5A-West, tied with Vilonia. Those two teams will face off against one another this Tuesday in a doubleheader at Van Buren, with the conference lead at stake.

Three other teams are a game back of Van Buren and Vilonia at 5-3 in Greenbrier, Alma and Greenwood. On Tuesday, Alma will play two at Greenbrier, while Greenwood has a doubleheader at Mountain Home.