Tuesday, May 21, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Wildcats champions

Leader sports editor

FAYETTEVILLE – There was no fantastic finish Saturday. There wasn’t even much suspense. In fact, the class 7A softball championship game was the most unexciting of the seven played last weekend. That’s only because it was the most dominant performance by any team as the North Little Rock Charging Lady Wildcats pummeled Rogers 10-0 in six innings, becoming the only mercy-rule winner of championship weekend at Bogle Field.

Leadoff hitter Sydney Parr came through with three triples and scored three runs, and pitcher Kayleigh Wynne threw a three-hitter while striking out seven in a game in which Rogers never had a chance.

“These girls just did everything you need to do to win a championship game,” North Little Rock coach Anthony Cantrell said after the game. “I’m just so proud of them. We had some great performances today but every single girl on this team did her job. They’ve been that way all year and that’s why they’re celebrating right now.”

Cantrell’s only disappointment was in not being allowed to name co-MVPs to Parr and Wynne.

“I don’t see how anyone who watched that game can’t understand there needs to be co-MVPs,” Cantrell said. “I’ve never heard of it being forbidden before, but that’s how it goes I guess.”

Wynne got the award for her efforts. He lone walk was the first batter of the game. She got stronger from there. She didn’t give up a hit until two outs in the fifth inning, a bloop single over shortstop Ashton Bobbitt, who was playing very shallow.

Rogers hit just one ball hard the entire game, a scorching line drive by Maddie Massanelli that sailed right into the glove of centerfielder Emily Bullock to start the fifth inning.

As solidly at North Little Rock played, Rogers was just as shaky. The Lady Mounties, who had lost 14-1 to North Little Rock early in the season, played like a team intimidated.

They committed four fielding errors, made several mental mistakes and ran themselves out of the only leadoff hit they got the entire game.

“We just didn’t play like we did last week,” said Rogers coach Mike Harper.

His team had finished third in the 7A West Conference, but peaked at the right time and made an impressive run through the state tournament. But the Lady Mounties did not bring the play that got them through state to the championship game.

The previous game ended very early and there was a long wait for both teams before the 7A game began. Harper said he thinks that may have added to his team’s tightness, but stopped at making it an excuse for the loss.

“I think we were tight and maybe the delay was a part of that, but that didn’t matter. We just didn’t play well today and a better team beat us. That’s a very good ball team over there.”

Parr started the game with a triple to right-centerfield on a running slap hit. She would duplicate it in her next two at bats. After the first triple, she scored on a deep sacrifice fly to left field by Wynne.

North Little Rock had an equally impressive start to the second inning. Erin Columbus led off with her own triple, but she over-slid past third base and was tagged out.

The bottom of the third inning saw the third leadoff triple as Parr hit another shot to the same spot. She scored on a passed ball as the next two batters went down in order. Junior Katy Kinnison then stepped to the plate and turned in an at bat that changed the complexion of the game.

With two outs and nobody on base, Kinnison quickly fell into a two-strike hole. But she battled Rogers’ pitcher Haylee Zimmerman for 13 pitches, fouling off seven pitches before finally drawing a walk and stealing second base.

What followed was three-straight, two-out RBI base hits by Hannah Lovercheck, McKenzie Escovedo and Columbus that made it 5-0. North Little Rock has not given up five runs in a varsity game since March.

“I was aware of the moment but at the same time I felt like I needed to just take the same approach I have all year,” Kinnison said of her huge at bat. “You get down two strikes you just shorten up and battle. I just felt like if I could get on base my teammates would keep it going.”

Parr started another three-run rally with a one-out triple in the fourth inning. She scored on a base hit by Bobbitt. Wynne got her second hit of the game to put two runners on base. It also ran Zimmerman off the mound.

Massanelli replaced her, but she also started shakily by walking Kennison to load the bases. Lovercheck grounded into a 6-2 fielder’s choice, but Escovedo picked up her second and third RBIs with a single to left field.

With everything else going North Little Rock’s way, why not a little luck also. Luck came the Lady Wildcats’ way in the sixth inning, helping to end the game early. Bobbitt led off with a double to right field. She moved to third on a groundout by Wynne and scored on a wild pitch to make it 9-0.

With two outs, Lovercheck got an accidental infield single when a pitch hit the handle of her bat and rolled into fair territory, slowly down the third baseline. She made her way around the bases and finally scored the game-ending run on a passed ball.

Parr went 3 for 4. Her last at bat was another hard line drive, but Massanelli snagged it at the mound.

Bobbitt went 2 for 4 with a double after starting with two fly ball outs. Kinnison was 1 for 2 with two walks. Lovercheck, Escovedo and Columbus each went 2 for 3 at the plate. The Lady Wildcats finished with 13 base hits.

Wynne gave up an infield single right after the first hit she allowed in the fifth inning. Rogers lead off hitter Jennifer Gonzalez started the sixth with an infield single that trickled down the third baseline, but she was called out for leaving the bag too early on a fly ball a few pitches later.

Rogers finishes the season 21-11. North Little Rock finishes on an 11-game winning streak and with a 30-7 overall record.