After playing five games in one day on Saturday, the Heber Springs softball team had little time to rest before returning to action with back-to-back dates on Monday and Tuesday against the Newport Greyhounds and Lonoke Jackrabbits.
The Lady Panthers showed few signs of fatigue, defeating the Greyhounds, 6-3, at home and the Jackrabbits, 9-2, in an away game.
Heber Springs 9, Lonoke 2
Heber Springs scored four times in the first inning to jump on the Jackrabbits early, as sophomore Abbi McBroome, who currently leads the team in batting average at .486, finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs, two runs, and a stolen base.
“You could just feel the air leave the stadium at that point,” said Heber Springs head coach Dusty West.
“Lonoke was kind of the game we had circled on the calendar for this week,” West said. “It's a district tournament team, and those girls knew the importance of that game. They came out like it was postseason and we did what we were supposed to do.”
Senior ace Tess Temple struck out 10 over seven innings, allowing one earned run.
Seniors Toni Bryant and Erika Hatsell each scored two runners on two hits, while senior Hannah Ford added an RBI double.
Junior pinch-hitter Lana Milton chipped in an RBI on a base hit in the fourth inning.
“One thing we did against Lonoke was bunted the ball well, got on base, and played small ball,” said West. “When we're doing that, we're really tough to beat.”
The Lady Panthers have made a few roster adjustments in the wake of losses to Beebe and Rose Bud in the last two weeks – moving Emeli Bish to left field and Erika Hatsell to first base after an injury to sophomore Hailey Vaughn, while naming Keeley Cresswell designated hitter.
“The last four or fives games it's kind of worked out for us,” said West. “Some of them were kind of too comfortable where they were.”
Heber Springs 6, Newport 3
Heber Springs moved to another early lead on Monday, scoring six runs before a 30-minute lightning delay paused the game. Newport closed the gap to 6-3 after the break, but Temple, who finished with five strikeouts, staved off the Lady Greyhounds.
“Our girls, they struggled with that break and trying to get back our energy level,” said West. “They came out and scored three runs on us, but, for the most part, I felt like we were in control of the game.”
Senior Savannah Childress batted 3-for-3 with a triple and two runs, Temple was 2-for-4 with an RBI, and junior Ashlyn Taylor, currently leading the team in RBIs with 27, had one on two hits against Newport.
“Newport, we didn't know what to expect,” West said. “They've been up and down in years past but they've got a new coach this year and he's done a really good job with them. They've improved tremendously.”
Heber Springs hosts the Quitman Lady Bulldogs tonight for senior night. The Lady Bulldogs (12-1) have only lost once this season, 14-0 against Rose Bud.
“Quitman's really talented. It's going to be a tough matchup,” said West. “It's our senior night, so hopefully we'll come out and perform to give our seniors a good farewell at Heber Springs.”
The Lady Bulldogs are one of several strong softball teams in the Cleburne County area this season. Concord (1A), Quitman (2A), and Rose Bud (3A) are all poised to make deep postseason runs in their respective classifications, while Pangburn (2A) and Heber Springs (4A) are fully capable of making it far as well.
“A lot of these local schools – Pangburn, Concord, Rose Bud – they're all really good, and it's kind of a bragging rights type thing because we never get to see each other in postseason play,” said West. “You get one shot at them and you have to wait another whole year to get them again, so our girls really like playing the local schools.”
“A lot of the schools are smaller than us, and we've got a target on our back to go out there and take care of business as the larger school, but it doesn't always work out that way,” West said. “There's some really good talent around right now, and it makes it fun.”