Booneville right-handed starting pitcher Taylor Nichols limited Heber Springs to only two hits in five innings and southpaw relief pitcher Ashdown Ross slammed the door in the sixth and final inning, only allowing a walk, as the duo hurled the Lady Bearcats past the Lady Panthers 3-1 in the opening round of the Heber Springs Parks and Recreation's Invitational Tournament.
Booneville (9-7), which finished fourth in the tournament's upper division after falling to Searcy 9-5 in the semifinals and Jonesboro 1-0 in the third place game, took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning with the help of an error.
Morgan Osborne reached on a one-out error and stole second, then moved to third on a groundout before Hannah McClung ripped an RBI single up the middle, scoring Osborne for a 1-0 lead.
Marissa O'Neal kept the Lady Bearcats' at-bat alive with an infield single, but Heber pitcher Courtney Rackley retired Brittany Ward on a grounder to McKenzie Cresswell at third, leaving two stranded.
Nichols pitched a perfect top half of the second, including one strikeout, and Booneville added to its lead with one run in the bottom half as Kaitlynn Davis crushed a double to deep center field, moved to third on Jacque
Hall's sacrifice-bunt and scored on Jaycie Rodatz's RBI groundout to Alexis Ingram at shortstop.
In the top of the third, Nichols pitched around a two-walk walk drawn by Skye Miller, who stole second before Courtney Verser sent a sharp ground ball to the right side, where O'Neal made a nice play from her second base position to end the Lady Panthers' threat.
Rackley worked around three consecutive two-out singles in the bottom half of the third, getting out of the inning when Miller made a running grab in center field on a fly-ball off the bat of Davis.
Nichols retired Heber in order in the fourth despite an error that allowed Bridget Muse to reach safely.
McClung, the Lady Bearcats' catcher, threw out Muse attempting to steal second on a pitch in the dirt and Nichols induced Makenzie Martin into a groundout to Davis at first base.
Leading 2-0, Booneville added an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth as Hall pulled a single to left field, advanced to second on Rodatz's sacrifice-bunt and scored on an error. With two runners in scoring position,
Rackley avoided more trouble with the help of Martin, who made a running grab in right field.
With one out in the top of the fifth, Cresswell sparked the Lady Panthers with a drive to deep left field that looked to be a double, perhaps triple, until Booneville inadvertently flipped the ball over the outfield wall, allowing Cresswell to come all the way around for a run.
Page 2 of 2 - But Nichols settled back in, retiring two straight, including one by strikeout as Booneville took a 3-1 advantage to the bottom of the fifth.
Rackley pitched around a leadoff single by McClung in the fifth with the aid of a double play turned by Verser, who snared a line drive off the bat of O'Neal and quickly threw to first base to double up the base runner.
Down to its final three outs due to tournament time regulations, the Lady Panthers had one final crack against Ross, who started the game at third base.
Ross struck out the first batter she faced before Verser worked a walk, giving Heber the tying run at the plate.
But Ross would retire the next two batters on a pop-out and groundout as the Lady Bearcats staked a spot in the semifinal round opposite Searcy, which lost to Greenbrier 9-1 in the championship game.
In its second game, Heber (8-8) lost to 6A Watson Chapel 5-4, and the Lady Panthers fell to 5A Batesville 5-1 in the seventh place game.