Softball team prepping for tournament

Chuck Hayes Democrat Sports
Joleigh Tate is about to make contact with a pitch during a scrimmage in June. Tate and the rest of Booneville's non-school team will play in a tournament in Russellville this weekend.

Booneville’s non-school softball team continued preparations for the tournament they will play in on Saturday by scrimmaging one of their players’ travel teams, Riptide, last Tuesday.

The tournament will now be played in Russellville rather than in Conway and while there is a possibility it could extend into Sunday, the organizers hope they will get all games in on Saturday.

Lamar and Perryville, who were in the same conference with Booneville last season, have also signed up for the tournament, according to Booneville Coach Ronnie Denton. Waldron, who will be a conference opponent next season, will also be involved.

Booneville will only play teams from their classification (3A) unless not enough schools from a higher or lower classification sign up. At press time, it is not known who Booneville’s first opponent will be.

The first five innings of the scrimmage saw primarily Booneville’s varsity players from the last school season playing, but also marked the return to sports action for Brooklyn Zarlingo after spending nine months rehabbing from a torn ACL and meniscus. The senior-to-be got the start in right field.

Riptide scored first, with future Booneville player Lexi Franklin advancing all the way to third on a grounder after drawing a leadoff walk to start the game. She would cross the plate on another ground ball. Booneville threatened in the bottom of the first but Layla Byrum, after walking and stealing second, was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a Shelby Posey grounder.

Booneville got out of a jam in the Riptide second, then threatened once again in the bottom of the inning. Brooke Turner walked and after courtesy runner Karmen Kent was forced by Joleigh Tate, the latter stole second before Leigh Swint beat out a bunt. But Booneville couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity.

In the third, Riptide had a runner cut down at the plate when Franklin, who had doubled, was caught off third by Byrum after the next batter reached and was eventually tagged out at the plate. Franklin came in to pitch for Riptide and struck out the first two batters she faced before Byrum beat out a grounder and stole second. The next batter, Posey, hit the ball hard but right at the second baseman.

Two fielding errors allowed Riptide to notch a run in the top of the fourth but Booneville struck back. With one out, Tate and Swint each singled and they executed a delayed double steal. The next batter was retired but Sara Ulmer then went with the pitch and dropped one into short left field for a double, scoring both runners.

Both sides went down quietly in the fifth and Booneville then started inserting their JV players. While they would not score any runs, they had their moments. Bella Crabtree picked up a single and Megan Reid ripped a line drive that the Riptide right fielder made a nice play on. Ryleigh Love also made a good play on a foul pop-up.

Turner worked four good innings; while she struck out only one batter, she used only 48 pitches to get the 12 outs. Emily Suttles pitched two innings and Crabtree finished it up. In all, 22 Booneville players took to the field.

Franklin, while pitching two innings against her future school team, got five of her six outs via strikeout but also allowed four hits and two runs.

During the Russellville tournament, the upcoming Booneville ninth-graders will not be able to play, because it is intended as a chance for last year’s teams to get in some game action and/or honor the 2020 seniors on their squad that might not otherwise have got recognition due to the season being shortened by the fallout from COVID-19. Zarlingo, though she did not see any action last school season due to her injury, will be eligible to participate because she was still carried on the squad.

Booneville will likely have one more practice before the tournament starts. It will be a chance for graduated seniors Baylee Moses and Shelby Posey to get a sense of closure on their outstanding Booneville softball careers, as neither will be continuing the sport at the next level.