No one would have dared dream a better start for the Booneville softball team on March 10. They had just dispatched Atkins, thought to be a competitor for the LadyCats’ getting to regionals, 24-11. That put Booneville at 3-0, 2-0 in conference play.
Booneville was averaging almost 19 runs per game, and perhaps some were sneaking a look forward to March 31 when Paris was slated to come to the Billy Kiersey Complex. It was quite possible the conference lead would be at stake when the LadyCats and Lady Eagles met.
But two days later came the word that the season would be put on hold after March 13 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19. Booneville was to play Fountain Lake that day but rain washed that game away.
The Paris game, and many others, were postponed indefinitely. The Arkansas Activities Association imposed a dead period that was initially to run until March 30, and later extended it to April 17.
Last Friday, the word came down from the AAA that remaining spring sports were to be cancelled because of the continued spread of COVID-19, thus ending the LadyCats’ season just three games in.
It was an unexpected end to the careers of LadyCat seniors Shelby Posey and Baylee Moses. Both players put up lengthy posts on social media, thanking coaches, parents and fans for their support.
The LadyCats had opened the season March 3 with a 13-5 win over Waldron, as freshman Layla Byrum went 4-for-4 with four runs scored and four RBIs. She became the first LadyCat ever to hit a home run in her first career at bat and followed that with a triple high off the right-field fence. Posey was 3-for-4, and Moses scored three runs. Brooke Turner added a three-run double while Hayley Lunsford, Brylee Washburn and Sara Ulmer reached base at least twice each.
This was followed by a 19-7 demolition of Jessieville on March 6. The LadyCats scored eight in the first inning, capped by a two-run homer off the bat of Moses. They would add nine more in the third with a Posey two-run double being the highlight. Moses, Leigh Swint and Ulmer each scored three times with Swint also picking up two RBI while Joleigh Tate was 3-for-4.
Tate was ill when Booneville took to the field against Atkins so Turner was the catcher for Emily Suttles. With Atkins leading 6-3 in the second inning, Booneville exploded for 16 runs, falling one short of the record set against Fountain Lake on April 12 of last year. Turner had another bases-clearing double and Posey also drove in three in the inning. She would go on to have five RBI’s and scored five times, including a home run to lead off the LadyCat third. Ulmer drove in four runs and Suttles three, while Byrum crossed the plate four times. Freshmen Karmen Kent and Megan Reid made their LadyCat debuts as courtesy runners with Kent scoring twice and Reid once.
At the point of interruption, Posey was batting .818 with Ulmer at .700 and Byrum at .667. The former two had driven in nine runs each while Byrum had scored 10 times already. No LadyCat was hitting below .333, and the team batting average sat at .500. Posey became only the third player, after Hannah McClung and Kaitlynn Davis, to hit at least one home run in all four seasons they played.
Suttles picked up the pitching win in all three games, the first two coming in relief of Turner and the third one in her first career start against Atkins.
The canceled games also denied the underclassmen much-needed reps, whether they were playing on the varsity or JV level. Kent was showing promise in the outfield in the JV games and Madison Crosby was playing a solid first base, while Teagen McMaster, Reid and Baylee Davis, among others, were doing a good job in their positions.
For next year, the LadyCats will lose only Posey and Moses, while the rest of the team will hopefully stick with the program. In addition, there are a number of promising freshmen-to-be ready to make their mark, among them Lexi Franklin and Ryleigh Love. In addition, Brooklyn Zarlingo will return for her senior season after an injury during volleyball ended her other sports for the rest of her junior campaign.
The LadyCats will be in a revamped conference for the 2021 season, as Paris will be the only team they will keep from this year’s conference. The rest of the new conference will include Charleston, Danville, Hackett, Cedarville, Waldron and Cossatot River.
No one will ever know what would have become of the 2020 LadyCats, though it was generally thought they would get to at least regionals and probably state. But even though it was a shortened and incomplete season, Shelby Posey and Baylee Moses can always say they closed out their careers with an undefeated senior campaign. And there would be nothing in the records to disprove it.