Tuesday, April 01, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Badgers win tournament

Leader sportswriter

In its third year of existence, the Beebe Lady Badgers won their third-straight Beebe-Cabot Softball Invitational tournament championship with a 3-2 win over class 4A Brookland in Saturday’s championship game at the Cabot Softball Complex.

Beebe (10-2, 2-0) lost a 1-0 extra innings game to Brookland (9-2, 3-0) earlier in the season and Saturday’s championship game also took extra innings to decide a winner.

The two teams ended the seventh inning tied at 1-1, so the international tiebreaker rule was put into effect at the start of the eighth inning. At the beginning of each team’s at bat in extra innings, the rule is that the last batter from the previous inning is automatically placed on second base.

Both teams added a run in the eighth, and Beebe held Brookland scoreless in the top of the ninth. Sophomore MaKenzie Free, Ellie Reaves’ courtesy runner, started the bottom of the ninthat second base, and fellow sophomore and teammate Sydney Smith led off the inning with a sacrifice bunt that moved Free to third base.

Aleighu Porterfield then came to the plate and got plunked by Lady Bearcat pitcher Jordan Maynard, and with Baylee Halford at the plate, Porterfield stole second base with ease.

Halford then hit a fly ball to center field that was caught by Brookland center fielder Rachel Thompson, but Free scored on the tag at third base to set the final score and give Beebe the hard-fought win.

“This is our third year, and this is the third year that we won it,” said Beebe coach Eric Chambers of the tournament. “That was the third time we’ve played them (Brookland) since last year. Last year, they beat us 2-1 in eight (innings). They beat us last week 1-0 in eight, so it’s two pretty evenly-matched ball clubs.”

Beebe got on the board first in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Madelyn Poe doubled to left field to start the inning, and junior center fielder Calah Hill followed with an infield single to third base that advanced Poe to third.

Three-hole hitter Nikita Howell then came to the plate and hit a fly ball to shallow right field, but the ball was dropped by Lady Bearcat second baseman Erin Poppleton. Poe scored on the play to give the Lady Badgers a 1-0 lead.

Both teams were held scoreless in the second inning, but Brookland tied the game in the top of the third with a close play at the plate. Leadoff hitter Maynard doubled to the right-field fence at the start of the inning, and Brookland added two more base hits to load the bases for cleanup hitter Haley Morgan.

Morgan hit a fly ball to left field that was caught by junior Courtney Caldwell, and Maynard barely beat Caldwell’s throw home to tie the game at 1-1. The score remained tied until the top of the eighth.

Poppleton started the inning at second base, and Thompson laid down a bunt that moved Poppleton to third. Brittni Huggins then came to the plate and laid down another bunt. Huggins was thrown out at first, but Poppleton scored on the play, which gave the Lady Bearcats a 2-1 lead.

Beebe got out of the inning without allowing any more runs, and Hill started the bottom of the eighth at second base. A groundout by cleanup hitter Haley Dinapoli put Hill at third with two outs, bringing five-hole hitter Courtney Shepard to the plate as Beebe’s last hope.

Shepard drove Hill in with a line drive single to left field that tied the game at 2-2 and sent the game to the ninth inning where the Lady Badgers were able to prevail.

The Lady Badgers opened the tournament at home with a dominant 13-0 win over class 2A Cedar Ridge, which put them in the semifinals against class 7A Bryant (5-3, 2-1). Dinapoli got the hit of that game.

With the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the first, Dinapoli hit a bases-clearing double to the fence in left center field that scored three runs and gave Beebe all the runs it would need. Beebe won the game 4-1, putting it in the championship game at Cabot.

“We got off to a real good start against Cedar Ridge,” Chambers said. “They’re a little undermanned for our class, but we jumped on Bryant early and I thought we hit the ball really well. And in this ball game (against Brookland) they just competed.

“My kids competed. They didn’t quit. They had opportunities where they could’ve given up when they (Brookland) scored that run in the eighth, but we competed. The pitcher competed. Ellie did a really good job, but that was the after-game speech. They really competed tonight.”

Reaves pitched all three games and got all three wins in the circle. She finished the day with 22 strikeouts and gave up just three earned runs.

Poe and Howell led Beebe with two hits apiece against Bryant, but the offense was more spread out in the championship game. Poe, Hill, Howell, Dinapoli, Shepard, Smith and Halford each had a base hit against Brookland.

The Lady Badgers resumed 5A-East Conference play at Forrest City yesterday after deadlines, and will play their next game next Tuesday at home in a conference doubleheader against Paragould. The first game of that matchup will start at 4:30 p.m.