Heber Springs softball won its opening round game against Jacksonville 11-2 on Saturday before falling to the Batesville Lady Pioneers 1-0 in a pitching duel, sending the Panthers to the loser's bracket. Heber battled back with two more wins, one against Baptist Prep and another in a rematch with Jacksonville, before being eliminated from the tournament by local rivals Rose Bud, 7-2.
“We're excited but drained right now. We just played five-straight games and we've been on the field since 9 a.m. this morning,” said Heber softball head coach Dusty West. “Nine hours straight of softball. I'm happy with where we're at. We came out and competed all-day long. We just ran out of gas there at the end.”
“The biggest thing I saw was our mental toughness,” said West. “We battled through. We're banged up, injured, and we kept playing.”
Heber Springs 11, Jacksonville 2
The Lady Panthers rushed out to a 7-0 lead in the top of the first inning against the Lady Titans on Saturday. Sophomore Abbi McBroome got things started for Heber Springs, driving in a runner and crossing the plate herself after a Jacksonville error allowed her to round the bases. Toni Bryant added a two-RBI single to left field, Savannah Childress drove home a runner, and sophomore Hailey Vaughn hit a two-RBI single to close out the inning, 7-0.
Bryant finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs. McBroome was a perfect 4-for-4 with two RBIs. Senior pitcher Tess Temple allowed two hits and one walk while striking out five over five innings.
Batesville 1, Heber Springs 0
Temple totaled seven strikeouts over seven innings in a pitching duel with Batesville (13-6), allowing four hits, one run, and no walks.
Heber Springs had its best scoring opportunity after McBroome doubled on an error and moved to third base on a wild pitch with one out in the top of the fourth inning. Temple popped out to the pitcher, Ashlyn Taylor struck out, and the Lady Pioneers escaped the inning.
“We had one opportunity with a runner on third and one out and we left her over there, never got her in,” said West. “That was two good softball teams, two good pitchers going at it, and that's what this whole thing is all about. Normally you don't get a full seven innings in an hour-and-fifteen minutes, but we did.”
Temple turned a double play to get out of a jam in the bottom of the fourth, but the Panthers couldn't manufacture anything offensively. When Heber Springs did manage to get runners on in the top of the sixth inning, baserunning blunders cost the Panthers two outs.
Batesville catcher Celsey Wood hit a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning to move the Pioneers to the semifinals against Pottsville, 1-0.
Heber Springs 13, Baptist Prep 8
Senior Hannah Ford took over in the circle against Baptist Prep for the resting Temple, as the Lady Panthers jumped out to another 7-0 lead at the end of the first inning against, sparked by a three-run bomb by junior Ashlyn Taylor.
Temple batted in another runner, Ford walked with the bases loaded, and Vaughn drove in a run on a double and ended up rounding the bases herself after an Eagles' fielding error.
Senior Erika Hatsell hit a two-RBI sacrifice fly for a 10-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning, while Vaughn hit another RBI, inside-the-park home run on a series of Baptist Prep errors.
Alix Barnett hit a three-run shot for Baptist Prep to pull within 13-8 late in the game, but Taylor, playing at third base instead of catcher to rest her knees, caught the final out of the game after turning a double-play earlier in the inning.
Heber Springs 13, Jacksonville 2
Taylor cracked a deep shot off the center-field wall for a two-RBI double to put Heber Springs ahead 3-1 in the bottom of the third inning in a rematch with Jacksonville. Taylor also scored the Lady Panthers' first run after a sacrifice RBI by Ford.
Hatsell added an RBI single on a Jacksonville error, and Childress belted a three-RBI double for a 7-1 cushion.
McBroome hit a two-RBI double, and Temple added an RBI single on a shot to center field.
Taylor ended the game by run-rule with her second three-run homer of the day. The junior hit a walk-off RBI against Harding Academy late last month and hit a grand slam just two games later.
“Ashlyn [Taylor] these last two or three weeks has just been seeing the ball like none other,” said West. “She had two three-run bombs today and in these last few games it was just base hit after base hit. She's seeing the ball and playing great behind the plate. She caught four out of the five games today, and that takes toughness. She's showing what we're trying to build here.”
Rose Bud 7, Heber Springs 2
After losing the series in a doubleheader with Rose Bud on Thursday, with a spot in the semifinals against Batesville on the line, Heber Springs jumped on the Lady Ramblers early, leading off with a double by Vaughn to the gap in center-right. McBroome singled, Temple drove in Vaughn, and Taylor hit a sacrifice RBI for an early 2-0 lead.
With one out and runners on the corners, Rose Bud freshman Hope Hartle got out of the inning without further damage as she struck out the next two Lady Panthers.
Hope Hartle hit a sacrifice RBI to close the lead to one in the bottom of the inning, and the game remained scoreless until the top of the third when Rose Bud sophomore Gracie Hartle tied it with an RBI double. Senior Carissa Caples put the Lady Ramblers' ahead with a sacrifice RBI, and Rose Bud wouldn't trail again.
“Rose Bud's a really good team, there's no doubt about that. They strung together some hits, and we had a couple errors there late in the game,” said West. “Against good teams, eventually they're gonna start getting hits and you've gotta make plays, and we just didn't make the plays we needed to down the stretch.”
Heber Springs softball won against Newport on Monday, 6-3. The Lady Panthers host Mountain View tomorrow at 4 p.m. and Quitman on Friday for Senior Night.