Tuesday, May 09, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe topples SH ladies

Leader sports editor

The Lady Badger softball team entered the 5A-Central Conference tournament as a two seed, they leave it as a No. 1 after beating Sylvan Hills 4-2 Friday in the tournament championship game.

The Lady Bears were the top seed in the conference tournament by virtue of a 5-4 win over Beebe on April 13, but the Lady Badgers’ bats have improved since that game, especially in the power department.

That was evident in Beebe’s big third inning, when senior Nikita Howell and freshman Hannah Gammill hit back-to-back home runs to give the Lady Badgers (18-11) a 3-0 lead.

We’re playing good,” said Beebe coach Eric Chambers. “We’re hitting the ball hard. I thought both teams played tremendous defense the whole game. They played awesome. We played awesome. Those back-to-back home runs were big for us. It was just two good teams played an excellent softball game. We were fortunate to come out on top.”

Sylvan Hills threatened first in the bottom of the second inning. Joy Franco drew a leadoff walk and Destiny Sanders doubled to left field to put two runners in scoring position. After a strikeout, Doma’Nique Hunt walked to load the bases with one out.

Beebe pitcher Abby Burch then fanned Anna Sigler and Tristen Goodson back-to-back to leave the bases loaded and escape the jam.

The momentum of those two strikeouts carried over into Beebe’s offense in the top of the third. Nine-hole hitter Molly Poe hit one that worked out just like a perfectly-placed bunt. Sylvan Hills catcher Cara Pozza fielded the ball but couldn’t make the throw in time.

Leadoff hitter Katlyn Gordon sacrifice bunted to move Poe to second. Howell then stepped into a 2-2 pitch and sent it sailing high over the fence in left field for a 2-0 Beebe lead.

Gammill then came to bat, and drilled a hard line drive over the fence in straightaway center field for a 3-0 lead with one out.

Haley Dinapoli and Lexy Lockhart then hit back-to-back singles, but Sanders got out of the predicament with a pair of groundouts.

The score stayed 3-0 until the bottom of the sixth inning. Sylvan Hills’ MacKenzie Rodgers hit a leadoff single to shortstop. Franco then sent two pitches over the fence in foul territory, down the third baseline before popping up to first base.

No matter, Sanders came to bat and hit a monster fly ball to left-center field that cleared the temporary fence by several yards and pulled the Lady Bears (20-10) to within 3-2.

Lynlee Broadway replaced Sanders on the mound in the top of the seventh, and got into trouble quickly. She gave up a single to Gordon and a bunt single to Howell before hitting Gammill to load the bases. A passed ball allowed Gordon to score, but Broadway turned things around from there and didn’t give up another run.

The Lady Bears, however, couldn’t produce a base runner in the seventh, as Burch got two fly balls and a grounder to third to preserve the Badger victory.

“We hit the ball like that and Abby (Burch) stays in the game, we’re in pretty good shape,” Chambers said.

Howell went 3 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs to lead Beebe offensively. Poe went 2 for 3 while Dinapoli and Lockhart went 2 for 4.

Sanders had two of Sylvan Hills four total base hits.

Beebe will open tournament play at 10 a.m. Thursday against the four seed from the 5A-South, Camden Fairview (11-12). State tournament host Sylvan Hills will play South three seed Magnolia (16-8) at 5:30 p.m.