Last year, when Booneville’s softball team failed to win a conference game, seems so far away now.

With a 10-2 pasting of Dover last Friday on senior day, the Booneville Lady Bearcats proved that they are back to being reckoned with as a legitimate force in Class 4A softball. And with a win by Mena over Pottsville, the Lady Cats have clinched a berth in next week’s 4A North Regional at Farmington. Booneville finished runner-up to Mena in the regular-season conference race.

"It was good to see all their hard work pay off," coach Doc Crowley said in a tweet after the game.

But the business next at hand is the 4-4A district tournament at Waldron. Booneville has a first-round bye and will not play until Saturday.

The Lady Cats broke the Dover game open with a six-run sixth inning highlighted by a two-run homer by junior Morgan Osborne. Ashdon Ross struck out 14 Lady Pirates in the win.

Booneville played two nonconference games earlier in the week. Behind Ross’s two-hit shutout, the Lady Cats blanked Charleston 5-0 on Tuesday. Then Booneville overcame a bit of early-game jitters by scoring eight runs in the third inning to defeat a good Scranton team 9-4 Wednesday.

The Charleston game marked the final on-field appearance for senior Brittany Ward, who had ACL surgery on Thursday and will miss the rest of the season. Ward now turns her attention to rehab in preparation for the continuation of her basketball career at UAFS.

Lady Cats 5 Charleston 0

Ashdon Ross singled up the middle to start the game. After she stole second and went to third on a passed ball, Morgan Osborne executed a perfect squeeze bunt to score Ross. Taylor Nichols then singled, Hannah McClung reached on an error and Brittany Ward dropped down a bunt that left the Charleston catcher with no play, loading the bases. Marissa O’Neal picked up the RBI with a single to short right.

The Lady Cats added a third run in the second inning. Lilly Dobbs, Ross and Osborne all singled and McClung picked up the RBI on a fielder’s choice. Booneville left no doubt when they scored two runs in the third. O’Neal singled and stole second, then beat the play at third on a bunt by Kaitlynn Davis. Jacque Hall plated O’Neal with a hit to right field and Dobbs picked up Davis with a sharp single to center field.

That was more than enough for Ross to work with. She only gave up singles to Becca White in the fourth inning and to Payton Gattis in the sixth. The freshman struck out eight Lady Tigers on the way to the win. Dobbs was 3-for-3 at the plate.

Lady Cats 9 Scranton 4

The host Lady Rockets scored twice in the first, aided by two Booneville errors. The Lady Cats got one back in the second inning as Kaitlynn Davis singled and advanced on a Jacque Hall groundout. Lilly Dobbs then continued her hot streak by bringing Davis home with a single to left. Booneville had two more miscues that led to another Scranton run in the bottom of the inning, but the Lady Cats blew it open in the top of the third.

Morgan Osborne started it with a walk and starting pitcher Taylor Nichols followed with a single. Hannah McClung got the first RBI; Marissa O’Neal followed with a sacrifice and Davis knocked courtesy runner Paige Joyce in with a single. Hall again advanced the runners and Dobbs drove in two with her fifth consecutive base hit over two games. She stole second ahead of a walk to Taylor Bauer and scored on an Ashdon Ross RBI single that sent Bauer to third. Ross then stole a base and Osborne knocked both runners home with a hit to left. The junior then stole second and third and Nichols’ second hit of the inning plated Osborne with the last run.

Scranton scored a fourth run in the bottom of the third but after that Nichols shut the Lady Rockets down. She allowed a base runner in each inning but was helped by the defense. McClung threw out a runner trying to steal and the Lady Cats took care of business in the field the rest of the game.

Ross and Dobbs were both 3-for-4 at the plate with the senior left fielder driving in three runs. The Lady Cats stole six bases in the game with Osborne, who scored twice, accounting for half of them and Ross getting two more to make her 21-for-21 on the season. Nichols pitched a complete game to move her record to 8-3 on the season.

Lady Cats 10 Dover 2

The Lady Cats were once again slow to start as the first two Dover batters singled. One scored on a groundout and the second came in as the result of two Booneville errors. But an alert play by catcher Hannah McClung helped retire that runner for the third out of the inning. Booneville equalized in the bottom of the inning as Ashdon Ross led off with a triple and scored when the Dover first baseman couldn’t handle a throw on a Morgan Osborne grounder. Osborne got to second on a groundout and scored on Marissa O’Neal’s RBI double.

Two more Booneville errors got a Dover runner to third in the third inning but Davis fielded a ground ball with one out. The Dover runner broke but Davis threw to McClung to start a rundown. McClung got the ball to O’Neal, who missed the tag, but the Lady Pirate runner was called out for going out of the base path. Ross then struck out the next batter to end the inning and followed up in the fourth inning by striking out the side, all looking.

The Lady Cats took the lead in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Ross singled to right and the ball got between the fielder’s legs. The freshman went to third and scored on Osborne’s single. A slow roller by Taylor Nichols got Osborne to second and McClung picked up the RBI with a hit to left.

Booneville made sure of things with a big sixth inning. Jacque Hall started with a single and was forced by Taylor Bauer after a Lilly Dobbs flyout. Ross plated Bauer with a double to the gap in left-center, then Osborne went over the gap and over the fence with a drive to the same area for her first Lady Cat home run. The Lady Cats were not nearly finished as Nichols and McClung belted back-to-back doubles and O’Neal singled Jaycie Rodatz in with a hit to left. The ball then got by the Dover outfield and O’Neal was able to circle the bases.

Ross then closed things out with a 1-2-3 seventh inning. She struck out a career-high 14 batters, striking out the side twice, and was 3-for-4 at the plate to take her batting average to .521. Osborne scored three times and had three RBIs, and McClung also collected three hits. The Lady Cats pounded out 14 hits in the game and collected 41 in the week, upping the team batting average to a lofty .377.