Heber Springs extended its season and ended Clinton's with a 7-3 victory over the Lady Yellow Jackets on Thursday in the first round of the 2-4A District Tournament.
Heber Springs extended its season and ended Clinton's with a 7-3 victory over the Lady Yellow Jackets on Thursday in the first round of the 2-4A District Tournament. The Lady Panthers, who tied Southside Batesville and Lonoke for the regular season conference title, took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning as Skye Miller lined a triple down the right field line and scored on Courtney Verser's bunt. Clinton pitcher Tori Johnson then worked around a one-out single by Alexis Ingram, who stole second before the Lady Yellow Jackets escaped the first inning. Heber pitcher Courtney Rackley gave up a leadoff single to Haley Hink in the top of the second. After Hink took third on a delayed steal, Karissa Johnson sent a chopper to the left side of the circle that was mishandled, allowing Hink to score as Clinton tied the score at 1-all before Rackley recorded a strikeout to end the top half. In the bottom of the second, the Lady Panthers busted the game open with three runs on four hits, starting when McKenzie Cresswell roped a single to left field. Makenzie Martin followed with a bunt single, which set up a sacrifice-bunt by Kaitlyn Bradke, who pushed Cresswell and Martin into scoring position. Madi Fires dropped another bunt, but Tori Johnson hopped off the rubber, fielded the ball and quickly flipped to home plate to cut down Cresswell. With two outs, Miller delivered an RBI single to left field that scored Martin, then Verser drilled a 2 RBI single to right field that plated Fires and Miller as Heber took a 4-1 lead before Clinton got out of the jam. The Lady 'Jackets battled back in the top of the third frame, scoring two runs on three hits to pull within one. Sydney Howard sparked Clinton with a one-out single and Zoe Tester worked a full-count walk, which set the stage for Hink's two-out RBI single up the middle. Madison Barnes added an RBI single to right field, scoring Tester as the Lady 'Jackets suddenly pulled within one at 4-3 before Rackley retired Jessica Hefner on a groundout to Verser at second, leaving runners stranded at second and third. Heber quickly countered by scoring three runs on two hits and two errors in the top of the third. Bridget Muse reached on an error to start the inning and she moved to second on Hannah Mangum's sacrifice-bunt. Cresswell crushed an RBI double to deep left center, scoring pinch-runner Carlie Ludwig as the Lady Panthers extended their lead to 5-3. After Martin beat out her second bunt single of the game, Bradke dropped a bunt. Clinton took the out at first base on Bradke's bunt as Cresswell alertly waited on the throw before breaking from third base. Cresswell scored as the throw back home sailed high, bouncing off the backstop and down the third base line, allowing Martin to score as Heber took a 7-3 lead. Fires nearly reignited the Lady Panthers by poking a two-out single to left field and swiping second and third, but Johnson recorded a strikeout to get out of the third inning. Rackley tore through Clinton's lineup in the top of the fourth, striking out the side, but Johnson settled into a groove in the bottom half, retiring the Lady Panthers in order. Rackley pitched around a leadoff single by Howard in the fifth with the help of smooth fielding by Ingram at shortstop and Cresswell at third, eventually leaving Howard stranded at third. Johnson pitched around an error that allowed Mangum to reach with no outs in the bottom of the fifth. Cresswell pushed Mangum to second with a sacrifice-bunt, but Johnson recorded a strikeout and groundout to end the frame. With Heber still leading 7-3 entering the sixth, Barnes reached on an infield single before Rackley retired Jessica Hefner on a pop-out to Ingram at shortstop. After Karissa Johnson beat out an infield single, Rackley retaliated with two strikeouts, including one looking. Johnson sat down Heber in order in the bottom of the sixth before Rackley, who limited Clinton to only four hits, closed out the game by retiring three consecutive while racking up her ninth strikeout of the game. Cresswell (2-for-2), Martin (2-for-2) and Miller (2-for-4) each finished with two hits for Heber, while Verser (1-for-3), Ingram (1-for-3) and Fires (1-for-3) had one hit apiece. Martin and Miller each scored 2 runs to pace Heber and Verser led the Lady Panthers with 3 RBI.