Tuesday, April 14, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Lonoke 2-1 at Harrison tournament

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Lady Jackrabbit softball team finished 2-1 at the Ozark Softball Classic on Saturday at Harrison, with its only loss coming to 4A-2 Conference opponent Southside Batesville in the tournament championship game.

Lonoke won two close games Saturday to earn its spot in the championship game. The Lady Rabbits beat West Fork 4-3 in the first round of the tournament, and in the semifinals, Lonoke beat Calico Rock by the same score.

The championship game was also close, but Southside prevailed, winning by the final score of 4-2.

In the championship game, Lonoke scored two runs in the first inning, and led 2-0 up until the bottom of the fifth, when Southside tied the game with two runs scored. The Lady Southerners scored two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, and held Lonoke scoreless in the top of the seventh to seal the win.

Southside outhit Lonoke 9-6, and Maddie Pool led the Lady Rabbits with two hits.

In the first round against West Fork, Lonoke trailed 2-1 going into the sixth inning, but scored three runs in the bottom half of that inning to take a 4-2 lead. All three runs came with two outs.

Candace James started the two-out rally with a single, and Gracie Cole followed with a single. Sidney Hallum then came to the plate and singled to drive in Madison McFadden, James’ courtesy runner, and Cole to give Lonoke a 3-2 lead.

Winning pitcher Charley Jo Chesney singled the next at-bat to drive in Hallum, and give Lonoke a 4-2 lead after six. West Fork added a run in the top of the seventh to cut Lonoke’s lead to 4-3, but that was as close as West Fork would get, and Lonoke advanced to the tournament semifinal as a result.

Lonoke was the home team on the scoreboard in the semifinal round as well, and scored two runs in the bottom of the first to take a 2-0 lead. Calico Rock scored a run in the second and third innings to knot up the score at 2-2, but the Lady Rabbits scored a run in the bottom of the third to lead 3-2.

Jarrelyn McCall, who reached base on a single, scored the go-ahead run on an Amanda Sexton double, which gave Lonoke its one-run lead. The Lady Rabbits added another run in the fifth.

Chesney led off the inning with a triple to right field, and she scored the next at-bat on a single by Jasalyn Truelove. Calico Rock added a run to its side of the board in the top of the sixth to cut Lonoke’s lead to 4-3, but was held scoreless in the top of the seventh, giving the Lady Rabbits the win.

Lonoke got the win despite being outhit by Calico Rock, 15-8. Truelove, McCall and Chesney led the offense in that game with two hits each. Lonoke did outhit West Fork, 11-8, and Chesney, Truelove and Hallum led the offense in that first-round game with two hits apiece.

Chesney earned the two wins in the circle. She threw all seven innings in each win, and finished the two complete games with a total of seven strikeouts.

Lonoke also played a nonconference game against Harrison the night before Saturday’s tournament, and lost that game 12-2.

Despite that double-digit loss, it didn’t take away from Lonoke’s showing in Saturday’s tournament. If anything, it brought the team closer together, according to Lonoke assistant coach Heath Swinney.

“We had a little team get-together after that game,” said Swinney of Friday’s loss to Harrison. “Some of the parents cooked out for us. I think the team got a lot closer and I think that carried over into Saturday.

“Even though we got beat Friday, I think the experience of the whole weekend was a big team-builder for us, and it showed Saturday. It was very, very productive. We made plays when we had to. People stepped up, got hits when they needed to.

“We won Saturday and got to the finals, but to be honest, the most productive thing that happened that weekend for us was after the game against Harrison, watching those kids interact with each other.

“They just had a good time together. We have young kids and we have a lot of new kids that haven’t been on a team, and then the next day, all of that interaction they built with each other, it just carried over.”

The Lady Rabbits (9-6, 3-1) are scheduled to play again tomorrow at home against Newport. That 4A-2 Conference game will start at 4:30 p.m.