Top-seeded Brookland banged out 13 hits, including at least one from each batter in the lineup as the Lady Bearcats eliminated fourth-seeded Heber Springs 8-1 in the first round of the 4A East Regional softball tournament on Saturday evening at the Heber Springs Sports Complex.
Brookland right-handed pitcher Kelly Lewis held Heber to four hits while striking out six and walking three. Lewis also led the Lady Bearcats at the plate, finishing 3-for-3 with an RBI.
Brookland shortstop Jordan Maynard added two hits, including a two-run home run over the center field wall in the bottom of the first inning. Maynard's big blow scored Sydney Smith, who reached on a one-out single off Heber starting pitcher Courtney Rackley.
Rackley recorded one strikeout in the first while receiving help from battery mate Hannah Mangum, who threw out a runner trying to steal second base.
Heber trimmed its deficit in half with one run in the top of the third, starting when Madi Fires dropped a perfect drag bunt single to the right side. Skye Miller followed with a sacrifice-bunt that moved Fires into scoring position for Courtney Verser, who worked a full-count walk.
Alexis Ingram smoked a two-out RBI double to deep left field that scored Fires before Lewis escaped further trouble by inducing a foul pop-up, leaving runners stranded at second and third.
Brookland (28-2) answered with one run in the bottom of the third as Maynard reached on a two-out single, stole second and scored when Lewis slammed an RBI single to center field.
After Lewis retired the side in order in the top of the fourth, the Lady Bearcats pushed their lead to 4-1 in the bottom half as Brittni Huggins stroked an RBI single up the middle that scored Erin Poppleton, who led off the frame with a single through the hole on left side.
Leading 4-1 entering the bottom of the fifth, Brookland blew the game open with four runs on three hits and two errors. Maynard reached on an error and scored, Lewis singled and scored, Gracyn Brown reached on an error and scored and Kyla Kelly doubled and scored on an RBI single off the bat of Haley Morgan.
Lewis only allowed a hit to Ingram and walk to Fires in the final two innings as the Lady Bearcats claimed an 8-1 victory while clinching a spot in this week's state tournament.
Fires, who roped a one-out triple to right field in the fifth, paced Heber at the plate, finishing 2-for-2 with one run. Ingram (2-for-3) collected Heber's other two hits and lone RBI.
The Lady Panthers lose two valuable seniors in Ingram and Verser, but return the nucleus of their team next season, including six future juniors and two future seniors.