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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Lady Tigers upend Rose Bud

  • Rose Bud left it all on the field Friday, just like they have all season.

    But, the Lady Ramblers came up short in their quest for a third amazing last-inning comeback in a span of less than two weeks as Mansfield’s Lady Tigers left two runners in scoring position to hold on for a 4-2 victory in the Class 3A championship game at Bogle Park.

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  • Rose Bud left it all on the field Friday, just like they have all season.
    But, the Lady Ramblers came up short in their quest for a third amazing last-inning comeback in a span of less than two weeks as Mansfield’s Lady Tigers left two runners in scoring position to hold on for a 4-2 victory in the Class 3A championship game at Bogle Park.
    “After it was over I told them look around because not many people make it here,” said Rose Bud Coach Matt Porter. “It’s tough to see the [seniors] go but 122 wins in their career…They brought great pride to our town and to me and you can’t ask any more out of them.”
    In the top of the first inning, Mansfield pitcher Amber Oxford worked around a one-out stand-up double by Tori Willborg, who belted a pitch to deep center. Oxford retired the next two batters on a pop-up and groundout, leaving Willborg stranded at second.
    Mansfield, which finished its season with an overall record of 29-8, struck with a run in the bottom of the first, starting when left-handed Alli Cumbie stroked a double to the alley in right center.
    Miranda Kolb then plugged the gap in right center with a RBI double, scoring Cumbie before Kolb was thrown out at third on a precise relay from second base player Destanie Naquin. Rose Bud pitcher Dana Naquin retired Andi Cumbie on a groundout to Destanie Naquin at second, ending the first.
    Oxford pitched a perfect second, including a long fly-out to center off the bat of Madelyn Murphree and the Lady Tigers added an insurance run in the bottom half as Cheyenne Morgan led off with a double to center and moved to third on a Erin Reano groundout.
    After Tiffany Roberts lined out back to Dana Naquin, Morgan scored when Naquin’s throw to third skipped away as Mansfield pushed its lead to 2-0. Rose Bud got out of the second when Oxford hit a fly-ball to center, where Kali Whitlow made the play.
    Oxford sat down the Lady Ramblers in order in the top of the third, including one strikeout, while Dana Naquin began to find a rhythm in the bottom half, striking out one while retiring the Lady Tigers in order.
    Rose Bud sliced its deficit in half in the top of the fourth as Willborg drilled a leadoff double to deep left field and scored on a one-out RBI single to center from Dana Naquin, who took second on a fielding error.
    But, Oxford settled down and retired two straight, including Murphree on a sharp grounder back to the circle, leaving Naquin stranded in scoring position.
    In the bottom of the fourth, Dana Naquin pitched around a one-out bunt single by Andi Cumbie, who stole second and took third on a wild pitch before Naquin induced Morgan into a pop-out to Destanie Naquin at second. With Cumbie still at third, Dana Naquin retired Reano on a foul pop-up taken by Willborg in foul territory.
    Page 2 of 3 - Trailing 2-1,Rose Bud attempted to stir up a rally in the top of the fifth as Destanie Naquin pulled an infield single to the left side and advanced to second on Misty Newcom’s sacrifice-bunt.
    Oxford then induced a Marissa Holland pop-out before Whitlow beat out a one-hopper to shortstop, using her blazing speed to keep the inning alive as Destanie Naquin moved to third. With two runners in scoring position after Whitlow swiped second, Oxford got Willborg on a foul pop-up handled by Morgan near the third base dugout.
    Dana Naquin retired Mansfield in order in the bottom of the fifth, including two fly-balls taken by Lemieux in left field. In the top of the sixth, Rose Bud knotted the score with a run aided by two errors.
    Lemieux reached on a ground ball to the right side that turned into an error to start the frame and she alertly sped around to third on a sacrifice-bunt by Dana Naquin. Sara Sartin followed with a high chopper to shortstop, where Miranda Kolb made the play while Lemieux held at third.
    With two down, Murphree sent a hard grounder to the right side that was misplayed, which allowed Lemieux to score as Rose Bud tied the game at 2-all. Courtesy runner Kailee Hannah stole second base but Oxford limited the damage by retiring Destanie Naquin on a grounder to Kolb, who made the play to keep the game tied going into the bottom half of the sixth.
    Mansfield, which is located on the border of Scott and Sebastian counties, opened up a two-run lead with two runs on three hits in the bottom of the sixth, sparked by Mallory Ward, who pulled a leadoff double past third base and into the left field corner.
    Alli Cumbie added a bunt single that advanced Ward to third. After Cumbie swiped second, Kolb delivered a 2 RBI double deep down the left field line, just out of the reach of Lemieux as Ward and Cumbie scored easily, giving the Lady Tigers a 4-2 advantage.
    Following a meeting on the mound with Porter, the Lady Ramblers regrouped as Dana Naquin sat down three in a row, including one by strikeout. With two down, Reano hit a fly-ball to left field, where Lemieux made the grab as the Lady Ramblers stranded Kolb at third.
    Down 4-2 entering the seventh and final regulation inning, Rose Bud found itself in a familiar position, similar to its state semifinal win against Prescott and the Region 2 championship game victory against Arkansas Baptist – two huge games in which the Lady Ramblers rallied from down two to win.
    Rose Bud got off to a promising start as Newcom reached on an error but was doubled off when Holland laced a liner to second, where Katie Tucker made the catch and quickly fired to first to complete the double play.
    Page 3 of 3 - Down to its final out, Rose Bud continued to scratch, claw and fight as Whitlow beat out an infield single on a grounder to shortstop. Mansfield prematurely celebrated, thinking they had captured the state championship. But, Whitlow was called safe on the close play at first base.
    Willborg followed with a single through the hole on right side and Whitlow sped around to third, drawing a throw and allowing Willborg to cruise into second with her third hit of the game.
    With the tying run in scoring position, Oxford induced Lemieux into a grounder to shortstop, where this time Kolb competed the play, nipping the speedy Lemieux as the Lady Tigers held off a strong push by Rose Bud for the Class 3A state championship.
    Rose Bud finished its season with an astonishing record of 34-4. “We’ve been kinda living and dying at the end of the game for the past two weeks now,” said Porter. “You can’t measure the heart of these girls. They are going to fight and claw to the very end, until the last out is made. As a coach I couldn’t ask for more from a group of girls.”
    Looking back, Porter said stranded base runners made the biggest difference in the outcome. The Lady Ramblers left a combined seven runners in scoring position. “It was just a hard-fought battle between both teams. I though they got the key hit when they needed it more than we did,” Porter said.
    “That’s how softball and baseball is…One team is going to get a key hit and the other one doesn’t. They got it today and we didn’t,” added Porter.
     
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