BRYANT, Ark. — Everything was going so well.
The pre-game ceremonies to honor seniors Sarah Hart, Christen Kirchner and Paige Turpin had been a success. And the Lady Hornets had started the game with a four-run burst that included a three-run homer by Kirchner. And the Lady Hornets got to make their archway of bats for her after she circled the bases. In fact, they got to do it twice more in the third when Kirchner and Jenkins blasted back-to-back round-trippers to make it 6-2.
But the Cabot Lady Panthers spoiled the fun, scoring three in the fourth and two in the fifth for a 7-6 victory that knocked the Lady Hornets out of sole possession of first place in the 7A-Central Conference. Bryant dropped to 16-7 overall and 8-2 in league play going into a showdown with defending State champion North Little Rock at Burns Park on Thursday with first place and a possible conference championship on the line.
Bryant beat North Little Rock earlier in the season, 7-3, but the Lady Charging Wildcats were without star pitcher Jessica Shelton that night. The Lady Hornets also have games against Little Rock Central on Friday, April 24 and two against Van Buren on Tuesday, April 28, to play.
Cabot actually scored first in Tuesday's game thanks to a two-out error by the Lady Hornets that produced the first run and kept the inning going for a second.. In the top of the first, Becca Bakalekos walked and advanced on an illegal pitch, an old bugaboo from Jenkins, the Lady Hornets' starting pitcher. Bakalekos took third on a groundout and, with two down, scored when Jenny Evans reached on a throwing error. Another illegal pitch got Evans to third and Brooks Taylor singled her in to make it 2-0.
Another throwing error put runners at second and third but Jenkins got Chelsea Conrade to bounce to second to end the inning with no further damage.
And Bryant went to work with the bats. Jenna Bruick slapped a single to left and beat the play at second on Kayla Sory's bunt. Kirchner came up and, on a 3-1 pitch, blasted her first home run of the game to give her team the lead.
Jenkins kept the inning going with a walk. Courtesy runner Cassidy Wilson stole second, advanced to third on a groundout by Jessie Taylor and scored on a groundout by Hart. Kim Wilson singled but was stranded at second.
Jenkins worked a 1-2-3 second then struck out two to work around a pair of singles in the third.
In the home third, Kirchner parked the first pitch for her second homer and, two pitches later, Jenkins cracked her four-bagger. With one out, Hart drew a walk and stole second base. Kim Wilson flew to right and Kelsie Works, running for Hart, tagged to go to third but, on a disputed call, was ruled to have left the bag too soon for the third out to end the inning.
Cabot cut the lead to 6-5 in the fourth aided by another pair of Bryant errors. The first allowed Conrade to reach. She advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a double by Tara Boyd. Jordan Reed singled in a run and, after Bakalekos reached on an error, Cherie Barfield doubled to make it 6-5. With runners at second and third, the Lady Hornets made some plays to get out of the inning with a lead. With one out, Bakalekos was thrown out trying to score on a grounder to second then Barfield was gunned down at the plate on a bouncer to third.
In the bottom of the inning, Turpin walked and Bruick singled with one out but both were stranded. The inning ended when Kirchner's liner to right was caught.
Cabot revved up the offense again in the fifth. Conrade led off with a walk and Kirchner came on in relief of Jenkins. She was greeted, however, by a single by Boyd that scored Conrade, who had advanced on a passed ball, tying the game. Reed sacrificed Boyd to second, Bakalekos singled her to third then a grounder to second by Barfield brought her home with the go-ahead run.
The Lady Hornets were retired in order in the bottom of the fifth. But, after Kirchner pitched around a single and a walk in the sixth, Cassidy Wilson, in her first game back after recovering from a broken hand, cracked a double with one out in the home half to give Bryant hope. With two down, Bruick drew a walk but both were stranded as Barfield got Sory to fly out to center.
Kirchner set down the Lady Panthers in order in the seventh and the Lady Hornets made a bid to tie it in the bottom of the inning. Kircher walked and stole second to get things started. An out later, Taylor singled her to third but Hart struck out and Kirchner was picked off third by the Cabot catcher to end the game.