Lonoke erupted with nine runs in the third inning and cruised to an 11-4 victory behind the pitching of right-hander Hannah Murray in the semifinals of the 2-4A District Tournament on Monday evening at the Heber Springs Sports Complex.
Murray, who limited Heber to only three hits while walking two and striking out four, also hurt the Lady Panthers with her bat, finishing 3-for-3 with 3 RBI – all in the third inning as the Lady 'Rabbits sent 13 batters to the plate.
The Lady Panthers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning as Skye Miller ripped a single up the middle and stole second, which set up a wild play. As Alexis Ingram drew a walk, Miller got caught up in a run-down between second and third.
Miller proved too quick for the Lady 'Rabbits, escaping the run-down as Ingram alertly rounded first and took second with a head-first dive just ahead of Lonoke's tag. Miller sped home when Lonoke threw to second and she scored easily, giving Heber a 1-0 lead.
Murray retired the next two batters, including one by strikeout, leaving Ingram stranded at second.
Lonoke, which lost to Stuttgart 10-0 later Monday night in the district championship game, countered with one run on two hits in the bottom of the first inning. With the bases loaded and two out, Haylee Whitehurst worked an RBI walk that scored Charley Jo Chesney, who led off the frame with a single to center field.
Heber reclaimed the lead in the top of the third as Miller once again sparked the Lady Panthers by reaching on a sharp ground ball turned error. Courtney Verser followed with a sacrifice-bunt that pushed the speedy Miller all the way around to third.
Ingram drove home Miller with a sharp ground ball to the left side that was misplayed as the Lady Panthers took a 2-1 lead before Murray sat down two straight, including one by strikeout.
Lonoke busted the game wide open with nine runs on eight hits in the bottom of the third, starting when Jasalyn Truelove singled to left field. Murray roped an RBI double to left center, scoring Truelove and tying the score at 2-all.
After Katelyn James walked, Jessy Lewis' bunt was misplayed, which loaded the bases for Whitehurst, who drew a full-count walk that scored Murray's courtesy runner, giving Lonoke a 3-2 lead.
Jerrelyn McCall followed with an RBI single to center field that plated Katelyn James then Candy James lifted an RBI sacrifice-fly to right field, scoring Lewis. Kayley Dozier added a well-placed bunt single that scored
Whitehurst, who was hit in the hand as she slid home in front of third base player McKenzie Cresswell's flip to the plate.
Lonoke then blitzed Heber with four consecutive hits, including three doubles as Chesney, Truelove, Murray and Katelyn James all hit the ball hard, driving home two more runs for a 10-2 lead.
Page 2 of 2 - Heber scratched across one run in the top of the fifth as Miller worked a full-count walk and moved to second on a wild pitch, which set up Verser's RBI single.
But, Murray pitched around an error to limit the damage and Lonoke added a run in the bottom half of the fifth when Katelyn James drove home Truelove, who walked to leadoff the frame.
Down 11-3, the Lady Panthers scored one run in the top of the sixth as Cresswell was hit-by-a-pitch and moved to third on Sarah Peeler's deep fly-ball to left center, which was misplayed as two Lonoke outfielders collided.
Madi Fires knocked home Cresswell with an RBI groundout to first base, but Murray would retire four of Heber's final five batters to close out the game.
Heber (12-10) finished as the fourth seed in the district and will likely play Brookland in the first round of the regional tournament on Friday.