The delay in the start of the 4A North Region tournament in Farmington — there was snow on the field the morning the first-round games were to begin — proved not to be an obstacle for the Booneville softball team as, after four close innings, they nailed Prairie Grove for five in the fifth inning of their first-round game last Monday. This propelled the Lady Cats to a 6-1 win and an automatic bid to the 4A State Tournament in Ashdown.
But they did not stop there. The Lady Cats then played Farmington on their home field Tuesday and thoroughly dominated the game. Kaitlynn Davis’s home run was icing on the cake as BHS advanced to the finals with a 7-3 win to gain a spot in the finals later that day opposite Pottsville, who the Lady Cats had beaten twice this season. However, the third time was a charm for PHS as they took advantage of Booneville fielding errors to claim the regional championship by the same 7-3 score.
The Lady Cats got a bye to the state quarterfinals, where they faced off with South region runner-up Hamburg last Friday. However, Booneville could do very little with Lady Lion pitcher Destiny Bowlin. The Lady Cats managed only two hits as Hamburg went on to a 7-1 win.
"I’m so proud of this team," said coach Doc Crowley. "And we have so many coming back." This bodes well for the future of the program. The Lady Cats finished with a record of 16-12.
Lady Cats 6 Prairie Grove 1
Ashdon Ross struck out two batters in the first inning, then led off the Booneville half of the frame with a single. She advanced on a wild pitch and an error and scored on Hannah McClung’s single. From there it was a pitching duel until the bottom of the fifth inning.
Lilly Dobbs led off that inning with a single and advanced a base when the ball got by the left fielder. Ross followed with an infield hit and stole second; after the next batter was retired Taylor Nichols hit the ball to third. The throw to first was off the mark with Dobbs and Ross scoring. Jaycie Rodatz ran for Nichols and scored on a McClung double. Marissa O’Neal’s grounder was fumbled by the third baseman and she also stole a base before Kaitlynn Davis and Jacque Hall completed the damage with RBI singles.
From there it was a matter of Ross finishing up. She lost a shutout with two out in the seventh when Lauren Gragg drove one over the center field fence, but that was only a consolation for the Lady Tigers. The freshman pitcher struck out eight Prairie Grove batters whie going 3-for-4, the same as McClung.
Lady Cats 7 Farmington 3
Booneville struck quickly again as Morgan Osborne ripped a one-out single to center and stole second base in the top of the first. Once again it was Hannah McClung who picked up the RBI, this time with an infield hit. Farmington threatened to get a runner to at least second when Lindsey Blackburn hit a drive toward the left-center field gap to lead off their second inning. However, Osborne made an outstanding diving catch to rob the Lady Cardinal first baseman.
The Lady Cats increased their lead in the third inning as Osborne walked and starting pitcher Taylor Nichols picked up an infield hit. McClung moved them over with a bunt and Marissa O’Neal’s rounder scored Osborne. After Kaitlynn Davis walked, Jacque Hall doubled down the right-field line to score Jaycie Rodatz, who ran for Nichols.
The Lady Cats got an unearned run in the fourth inning as an error by the Farmington pitcher on a McClung ground ball scored Ross, who had singled, moved to second on an Osborne walk and to third on Nichols’ ground ball. Farmington got two back in the bottom of the inning on an error and a bases-loaded walk that prompted a change in pitchers. Ross relieved Nichols with the bases loaded and one out and got the next two batters to prevent further damage.
Davis led off the Booneville fifth inning and on a 3-2 pitch, she caught a break when the Farmington catcher couldn’t hold her foul pop. Given a second chance, the Booneville first baseman launched a Nicole Larkin offering over the left field fence for her second home run of the season. Booneville added two more in the sixth as Osborne walked, stole another base and went to third on a Nichols bunt single. She came in on McClung’s sacrifice fly and a wild pitch sent Nichols plateward. Farmington scored an unearned run in the bottom of the inning to complete the scoring.
Nichols got the pitching win with Ross recording her second save. Osborne reached base all five times she came to the plate (two hits and three walks), stole two bases and scored three times. Hall doubled twice and Nichols also had two hits.
Pottsville 7 Lady Cats 3
The Lady Apaches opened the scoring when Bailey Martin tripled to right field to score Hannah Barnett, who had walked. Martin came in on an error and this would set the tone for the early innings. Pottsville scored three times on only one hit in the second inning; three Booneville errors helped the Lady Apaches along.
Booneville got two back in the bottom of the second after the first two batters were retired. Jacque Hall drew a walk and Taylor Bauer singled before Lilly Dobbs rocketed one off the center field fence for a two-RBI triple. The Lady Cats threatened again in the third inning, getting runners to second and third, but they could not cash in.
Ashdon Ross relieved Taylor Nichols in the fourth inning and the Booneville defense coughed up two more runs when they didn’t handle a squeeze play properly. This turned out to be all the support Pottsville reliever Savannah Gosnell would need to get the win. She pitched out of a one-out jam in the sixth. Booneville did get one in the bottom of the seventh as McClung drove in Ross, who had reached on an infield hit and advanced on a walk to Morgan Osborne. But that run came far too late to help. Ross and McClung each had two of Booneville’s seven hits; the Lady Cats actually outhit Pottsville 7-5 but five Booneville errors proved costly.
Hamburg 7 Lady Cats 1
Ashdon Ross retired the first two Hamburg batters but Kelby Callaway drew a walk and Destiny Bowlin ripped a triple to put the Lady Lions on the board. Ross singled to lead off the Booneville first inning but was left standing right there. Hamburg added two in the second, again after two outs, with Jada Wilson getting the two-RBI single.
Ross then began to settle and struck out two of the three batters she faced in the third, but HHS would add a run in the fourth inning; again it was Wilson who provided the clutch hit, in this case an RBI double. Booneville threatened in the bottom of the fourth as Osborne and Marissa O’Neal both drew walks and went to second and third on a wild pitch, but Bowlin induced Kaitlynn Davis to pop up for the third out.
Two more Hamburg runs crossed the plate in the sixth but Booneville turned a nifty double play to avoid further problems. The Lady Cats finally cashed in on an opportunity in the bottom of the sixth as Taylor Nichols walked with two outs. Courtesy runner Paige Joyce advanced on a wild pitch and Hannah McClung picked up her 31st RBI of the season with a single to center. However, Hamburg got that run back in the seventh and went on to the semifinals where they lost to host Ashdown.
Ross struck out seven batters in the losing cause. Booneville was disciplined at the plate as they worked Bowlin for five walks, but other than in the sixth inning they could not take advantage. Ross finished the season having not struck out in 106 plate appearances, and McClung only fanned four times in 98 trips to the plate.