Booneville found themselves having to pick themselves off the deck following a frustrating 10th inning in the regular season softball finale against Ozark. The LadyCats needed one win at the district tournament against a hard-hitting West Fork team to put themselves in the North Regional tournament.
Whitney Tatum repeatedly denied the Lady Tigers chances when they had them, and ripped her fifth home run of the season to propel Booneville to a 10-0 win and into a game with a 25-3 Pottsville team on the Lady Apaches’ home turf.
The LadyCats stormed to a 6-1 lead but the game turned on two plays in the bottom of the fifth which enabled Pottsville to score five runs and force extra innings. Booneville was turned away with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth and the Lady Apaches scraped together a run to escape.
That put Booneville into a rematch with Ozark in the third-place game, and the bottom of the lineup came through. The 7, 8 and 9 hitters were responsible for all the Booneville runs and Tatum got out of trouble on numerous occasions in the 4-2 BHS win.
Booneville (15-8) will face Gravette in the first round of the North Regional in Dover tomorrow at 5:30. A win sends the LadyCats to state next week in Lonoke and into a probable rematch with Pottsville.
Ozark 15 LadyCats 7
The LadyCats broke on top in a very powerful way. After Beth Wilkinson singled with one out, Whitney Tatum drilled a line drive over the left field fence that was still rising as it cleared the wall. The next batter, Shelby Posey, followed with a rocket over the left-center field fence for her second homer of the season and a 3-0 Booneville lead. The LadyCats added another run in the fourth; Baylee Moses walked and was sacrificed to second by Bailey Denton, AshLeah Craig then hit one to deep short and the Lady Hillbillies’ throw to the plate was far too late as Moses scored.
Ozark clawed two back in the fifth on a two-RBI single by Sydni Casto and then took the lead in the sixth. A single and two walks scattered around two Tatum strikeouts loaded the bases, and Lexi McClellan cleared them with a triple to right. They got another in their half of the seventh when Codi Shannon blooped a double down the right field line to score Casto, who had walked.
But the LadyCats came roaring back. Hannah Gregory opened the bottom of the seventh with a walk and one out later, Mariah Reagan’s fly ball was dropped. The next batter was retired but Tatum smacked the first pitch into the right-field gap, scoring both runners and forcing extra innings. Chloe Wickizer singled in a run in Ozarks’s half of the eighth, but Craig came up with a two-out double to plate Posey and force the ninth inning. Tatum walked the leadoff batter in the ninth and Katie McCormick then hit a short fly that Moses ran down in center; the runner on second was caught napping and was doubled off. The BHS pitcher got the third out and Olivia Tomlin sacrificed Gregory to third, but the LadyCats couldn’t cash in.
Ozark then made Booneville rue that missed chance. Tatum uncorked a wild pitch to start the 10th; two bunts scored one run and a throwing error resulted in three more. McClellan then got her second triple and the floodgates opened; five more Lady Hillbillies would eventually cross the plate.
Tatum got four RBIs, and she and Posey had a home run and a double each. The LadyCats gave themselves reasonable chances by laying down four successful sacrifice bunts, but it was not to be.
LadyCats 10 West Fork 0
West Fork opened the game with a hit but that runner was doubled off after Mariah Reagan caught a pop-up. The Booneville catcher then smacked one off the West Fork pitcher for an infield hit; two outs later Shelby Posey surprised the Lady Tigers, whose outfield played her close, by ripping a shot off the top of the fence to score Kasidey Thompson, running for Reagan. Baylee Moses then roped a double to score Posey. Things quieted down until the third inning when Reagan and Beth Wilkinson opened the frame with singles before Whitney Tatum waylaid a Kyndalle Reed offering over the left-field fence for her fifth round-tripper of the season.
Booneville, after Tatum got out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the fourth, put it away in the bottom of that inning. With two out, Reagan started the uprising with a walk; Wilkinson singled and Tatum followed suit for one RBI. Posey then went the other way for a double to score two runs and Moses drove Posey in with her third hit of the game for 9-0. Tatum found the bases loaded again in the top of the fifth but she slammed the door once more and the LadyCats then polished the win off. Olivia Tomlin singled with one out and after the next batter was retired, Wilkinson hit one up the middle to invoke the mercy rule.
Tatum only struck out five, but two came with the bases loaded and two out, and she drove in four runs to give her 13 over her previous three games. Moses, Reagan and Wilkinson all had three hits as the LadyCats got 14 on the night, and could have had several more but for good plays by the Lady Tiger defense.
Pottsville 7 LadyCats 6 (8 inns.)
The Lady Apaches scored the first run in their half of the second as Sophia Hamilton drove in Kayli Pennington, who had doubled after a long at-bat. Booneville wasted no time getting it back as Olivia Tomlin led off the LadyCat third with a triple off the left field fence. A Mariah Reagan ground ball was good enough for the RBI, and Booneville added three in the fourth. A leadoff walk to Baylee Moses was followed by an error on a Bailey Denton bunt. Hannah Gregory was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Reagan slashed one up the middle for two RBIs, with Gregory also scoring when the Lady Apaches tried to throw the Booneville catcher out at second.
Booneville then seemingly put the game away in the fifth. With two out, Moses doubled off the right-field fence and Denton rapped a grounder through the infield for the RBI. She took second on the throw, scoring when AshLeah Craig also singled to left. But things turned on a seemingly innocuous play in the bottom of the inning. Jordan Wright led off with a single and Shannon Lasey popped the ball up to Jessica Parrish at second. But Parrish dropped the ball; she threw Wright out on the force but was called for fielders interference. Abbie Cain singled in one run and Hailey Cain, after the next batter was retired, bunted to move the runners over. But Reagan’s throw got past Beth Wilkinson at third and two runners crossed the plate. Skylar Campbell singled in another run and Pennington tied it with her second double.
Both teams failed to score in the sixth or seventh innings. In the eighth, Gregory sacrificed Brooklyn May to third, and then Lasey walked both Tomlin and Reagan, loading the bases. Aspen Campbell, who had started the game at pitcher, returned to the circle and got the next two Booneville batters to get out of the jam. Wright took second to start the Pottsville eighth inning and was sacrificed to third. Abbie Cain then dropped a ball behind Tatum and in front of the infield to win it.
Reagan had two hits and drove in three runs, while Moses and Denton each scored twice. But Pottsville, in the end, did what they had to do to get the win.
LadyCats 4 Ozark 2
Playing on a field without a scoreboard was a new experience to most but that was what Booneville and Ozark encountered in the seeding game. Ozark drew first blood in the second as Elizabeth Berry reached on an error and after a sacrifice, Lexi McClellan doubled her in. Booneville didn’t let that lead last long as Hannah Gregory led off the third with a single and went to third when the ball rolled through the legs of the Ozark right fielder. Olivia Tomlin stung the next pitch to left for a double and then Beth Wilkinson beat out a hit. The throw got past the first baseman, allowing Tomlin to score.
Whitney Tatum found her way out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of that inning, getting a strikeout to end it. Neither team really threatened again until the sixth inning; Tatum led off with a single; two outs later, Bailey Denton coaxed a walk out of Ozark hurler Katie McCormick. AshLeah Craig, who has been clutch all season, came through again, hitting a rocket to right-center for a two-run double. That hit turned out to be necessary because in the bottom of the inning Sydni Casto singled home McClellan, who was the first of two consecutive walks. A third walk loaded the bases with two outs, but Tatum whiffed McCormick to end the inning.
The two teams then had to switch fields because of darkness, as there were no lights on the field on which they were playing. After they moved back to the main field, Booneville failed to score in the top of the seventh. Tatum got the first two batters in the bottom half, but Elizabeth Berry then beat out an infield hit. Emily Williams was sent up to hit for Maegan Harwell, who had struck out twice, and she worked the count to 3-2. But Tatum struck her out on a hard rise ball to end the game.
Tatum struck out eight Lady Hillbillies, giving her 228 for the season, and found her way out of several jams. Offensively, Gregory was 3-for-3, and Craig’s double delivered what proved to be the game-clinching RBI; the senior, in her first year of softball, is batting .600 (15-for-25) with runners in scoring position and has driven in 23 runs, second only to Tatum.