Heber Springs and Lonoke both field teams capable of winning the 2-4A Conference crown. Last year the Lady Jackrabbits won the league title before falling to the Lady Panthers in the district tournament championship game.
Lonoke (3-2, 1-0) got the first lick in this season, nipping the Lady Panthers 2-1 on Friday at the Heber Springs Sports Complex.
Heber (4-5, 0-1) got off to a promising start as pitcher Courtney Rackley retired Lonoke in order and Skye Miller led off the bottom half of the first with an infield single.
Alexis Ingram added a one-out single to left field and both runners moved into scoring position on a groundout off the bat of Bridget Muse. With two outs, Lonoke starting pitcher Hannah Murry induced McKenzie Cresswell into a groundout to Charley Jo Chesney at first base, ending the first inning.
Rackley pitched around two singles in the second inning with the aid of Miller, who caught a line drive at her position in left field and doubled off Lonoke's Katelyn James, who led off the frame with a single.
After Haley Whitehurst singled and stole second, Rackley ended the top half with a strikeout.
Heber saw another promising inning go up in flames in the bottom of the second as Courtney Verser and Hannah Mangum each singled to start the inning, and they moved into scoring position on a groundout by Makenzie Martin.
Katelyn Bradke followed with a ground ball to James at third base that turned into an inning-ending double play. Chesney caught James' throw for a force out at first then promptly threw to home plate, cutting down Verser.
Rackley limited Lonoke (3-2, 1-0) to a single in the third inning and Miller used her blazing speed to start the bottom half with an infield single. Madi Fires advanced Miller to second with a sacrifice-bunt and Ingram moved her to third with a sacrifice-fly to left field.
But Murry escaped trouble when Muse's grounder to third was played cleanly by James, leaving the game scoreless entering the fourth inning.
The 'Lady Rabbits took the lead with two runs on three hits in the top of the fourth, starting when Murry worked a leadoff walk. James then pushed a single through the hole on left side and both of Lonoke's runners moved into scoring position on a sacrifice-bunt by Jessy Lewis.
Haley Whitehurst delivered a one-out, RBI sacrifice-fly to center for a 1-0 lead, then Lonoke's Lenzie Rolland executed a squeeze play to perfection, scoring James while reaching on a single.
Down 2-0, Rackley fought back, retiring two straight and leaving two runners stranded in scoring position.
Heber sliced its deficit in half in the bottom of the fourth, scoring one run on one hit as Cresswell stroked a single to left center and moved to second on a passed ball. Cresswell advanced to third on a groundout by Verser and she scored when Mangum lifted an RBI, sacrifice-fly to center field.
Page 2 of 2 - Clinging to a 2-1 lead, Murry retired the final 10 batters of the game, while Rackley scattered two singles over the final three frames as Lonoke held tight for a one-run victory.
Perryville 1, Heber 0
The Lady Mustangs defeated Heber Springs 1-0 in a non-conference pitchers' duel last Thursday in Perryville.
Heber pitcher Courtney Rackley limited Perryville to one run on five hits, while striking out seven in the six innings. The Lady Mustangs, who also only allowed five hits, took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth.
Skye Miller (2-for-3) and Bridget Muse (2-for-3) paced Heber with two hits apiece, while Alexis Ingram (1-for-3) aadded a hit. Miller also stole three bases.