Rose Bud senior Misty Newcom delivered a clutch two-out, 2 RBI double to deep left field, capping the Lady Ramblers’ three-run seventh inning rally and forcing an extra inning on Tuesday in the Class 3A, Region 2 championship game against Arkansas Baptist at Harding Academy.
Rose Bud pitcher Tori Lemieux, who held the Lady Eagles scoreless in the sixth and seventh, worked out of trouble in the eighth. In the bottom half, Tori Willborg completed the Lady Ramblers’ dramatic comeback with an RBI single to center field, plating Marissa Holland for an 8-7 victory ¬ marking Rose Bud’s second consecutive regional title.
Rose Bud Coach Matt Porter said his team showed a lot of heart. “The thing with them is they never quit. They never lay down. They may get mad but when push comes to shove they are going to calm down and get the job done. Otherwise, there is no way we are 31-3 right now without the kind of heart they showed tonight.”
Batting eighth in the lineup, Newcom couldn’t have picked a better time for his first hit of the game. “She had an unbelievable hit,” said Porter. “She missed about the first four weeks of the season. She had a broken cheek-bone from preseason practice. She had surgery and hustled back. This is her last go-around as a senior and that’s unbelievable what she did in the clutch. That is big-time clutch,” Porter emphasized.
Baptist took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third when pitcher Blaze Mallory laced a 2 RBI single, scoring Taylor Wilcox, who worked a full-count walk, and Alex Calvert, who beat out a bunt single.
Rose Bud trimmed its deficit in half with one run in the bottom of the third as Willborg smashed an RBI single that plated Kali Whitlow, who slapped a two-out single to left field and stole second to get the Lady Ramblers started.
The Lady Eagles (11-6) countered with three runs on three hits in the top of the fourth, starting when Jordan Poe worked a full-count walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. With one out, Katelyn Caldwell beat out a bunt single that scored Poe once Rose Bud’s throw to first base trickled away into foul territory.
With two out, Baptist added two more when Calvert looped a 2 RBI single to left field, scoring Caldwell and Apple Filat, who beat out an infield single.
Trailing 5-1 entering the bottom of the fourth, Rose Bud chipped away at its deficit, scoring two runs on two hits. Dana Naquin led off with a single to left center then Sara Sartin walked before Madelyn Murphree nailed an RBI double that skipped against the fence in deep right center as Dana Naquin came around to score.
Destany Naquin added an RBI groundout to first base that scored Sartin as Rose Bud pulled within two at 5-3 before Mallory issued a full-count walk to Newcom. With two runners in scoring position, Mallory evaded further trouble by retiring two straight, including Whitlow on a grounder to shortstop, where Calvert made a smooth charging play to nip the speedster at first base.
Baptist struck with two more runs in the top of the fifth when Poe launched a two-run home run over the wall in left center, scoring Erin Woods, who led off the inning with a four-pitch walk.
Now trailing 7-3, Rose Bud scratched across a run in the bottom of the fifth when Sartin poked an RBI single over first base and down the right field line, plating Willborg, who led off with a solid single to left field. But, Mallory eventually left two runners stranded in scoring position with the help of Calvert, who made several dazzling plays at shortstop, including another charging assist to end the inning.
Baptist held a 7-4 lead until the seventh, when Rose Bud’s rally started with an infield single by Lemieux, who beat out a slow roller deep in the hole on left side. Dana Naquin followed with an infield single on a grounder to second then Sartin sent a chopper to third, which was initially misplayed but Calvert alertly backed up the play and beat Lemieux to third base for a fortunate force out.
Mallory retired Murphree on a flyball down the right field line, where Rachel Roberts made a basket catch in foul territory as the Lady Eagles began to taste victory, only one out away. But, facing a 0-2 delivery, Destany Naquin kept the Lady Ramblers alive with an RBI single over second and into right center, scoring Dana Naquin and cutting Baptist’s lead to 7-5.
Newcom then tied the game with her clutch 2 RBI double to deep left field, plating Sartin and Destany Naquin. Rose Bud nearly snatched the win in the bottom of the seventh after Newcom stole third but Calvert made another charging play from shortstop, cutting down Holland at first base and sending the game into extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, Poe started on second and moved to third on a wild pitch. Holland then made a nice play from third base on a bunt attempt, taking the out at first base while holding Poe at third. After Caldwell reached on a bunt turned fielder’s choice as Holland opted to hold Poe at third rather than throw to first, Wilcox worked a full-count walk, which loaded the bases.
Lemieux responded with a strikeout then retired Calvert on a ground ball taken by Sartin at first base, leaving the bases loaded.
With Holland starting on second base and the top of the lineup due to bat, Porter had a ton of confidence heading into the bottom of the eighth. “At that point with a tie ball game and Kali Whitlow at the plate, I had no doubt. I was pretty confident we were going to win the ball game at that point.”
Rose Bud did just that as Whitlow pushed Holland to third with an infield single, setting up Willborg’s game-winning single to center field that scored Holland as the Lady Ramblers celebrated a regional title.
The top-seeded Lady Ramblers opened state tournament play in Harrison on Thursday against Genoa Central (4th Region 4). The winner plays today at 12 p.m. against the winner of Perryville (2nd Region 1) and Tuckerman (3rd Region 3). Two wins would place Rose Bud in the state semifinals on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
“This give us a lot of momentum, it really does,” said Porter. “They found out how you have to battle every single game in state. You have to battle that way in state or you won’t be there long. Every team is hungry, wants to win and we’ve got to play harder than we have our entire life for four games. It can be one [game] or it can be four, I told them let’s go out and battle and see what we can do.”