BEEBE - The Benton Lady Panthers strolled into Saturdayâ€™s Beebe Tournament riding an 18 game winning streak and looking to tack on even more to their already successful season.
WIth a pitching dual brewing through the first three innings, both Benton and Westside Jonesboro combined for three hits and two walks before the low scoring affair finally got itâ€™s first run in the fourth.
Benton struck first in the top of the fourth. Jessica Hardig led the inning off with an unassisted ground out to first, bringing Hailey Durham to the plate. Durham did not get a chance to swing the bat as she was plunked by the first pitch from Westside.
A passed ball and a stolen base later put Durham on third with two outs following a ground out by Amanda Jones. Drew Melton was the Lady Panthers last hope in the fourth and she did no disappoint as she reached on an error, scoring Durham to put Benton up 1-0.
The Lady Panthers loaded the bases in the fourth but stranded all three on an inning ending strikeout by Sydnee Goldman.
Westside answered in the bottom of the fourth after a one out single and stolen base put a runner on second. Westsideâ€™s five hole hitter drove home the tying run with a deep RBI double to right field to make it 1-1. Lauren White battled out of the inning, forcing a strikeout and a pop out to end the inning with minimal damage.
After escaping what could have been a very bad inning in the fourth, Westside added another run in the fifth, again with only one out. After a ground out, Westside put back-to-back runners on before White could tally another out. Westsideâ€™s second run turned out to be the difference maker as they went on to finish off the Lady Panthers in a 2-1 nailbiter, ending Bentonâ€™s 18-game winning streak. With the loss, Benton moved their record to 18-2 on the year as they headed to the losers bracket on Saturday.
White gave up two runs on eight hits and struck out three.
The Lady Panthers combined to go 1-19 at the plate with Taylor Atkinson getting the only hit for Benton.
â€śWe came out very, very flat,â€ť head coach Heidi Cox said.
â€śIâ€™m not too sure if we were even awake. We didnâ€™t seem like were ready to be their just yet. We had a great winning streak going, but I think this might have been an eye opener letting us know that we have got to step it up.â€ť
Benton gets back on track with 7-4 win
Benton started over from scratch in game two as they battled back against Truman to win 7-4 in game one of the losers bracket.
Truman came out hot and jumped out in front 3-0 in the first inning.
Jessica Franklin, pitching her first full game since going out with a knee injury a couple of weeks ago, hit the lead-off batter but settled in to get the next to hitters via a ground out and fly out to put one on with two outs. Then errors began to plague the Lady Panthers. Truman put three straight runners on base and scored three before Benton could escape the inning. Two errors and an RBI double had Benton looking at an 0-2 start to the tournament.
Benton went scoreless in the first two innings, despite getting four runners on in the first and another in the second. Luckily for Benton, Truman could not add any more runs to their lead in the second or third, giving Benton a chance to cut into the 3-0 score.
Daphne Bono led the inning off with a walk in the third for Benton and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Korie Parker to cut the score to 3-1. Truman answered in the top of the fourth, scoring another run to make it 4-1.
Then Benton started to look like their old self, scoring four runs in the fourth and two more in the fifth to win 7-4 and escape Truman. Benton put three straight runners on base to start the fourth. After Bailey LeVart and Hardig reached on singles, Karrie McCurry, hitting for Durham, and Melton drove them home on an RBI double and another sacrifice fly to make it 4-3 Truman. With two outs, Bono reached on Bentonâ€™s third single of the inning and scored on a hit by Goldman to tie things up at 4-4. In the fifth, Benton scored two on a walk by Atkinson, an RBI double from Hardig and an RBI single by McCurry as time expired, leaving Benton with the 7-4 comeback win.
Franklin gave up four runs on just one hit and struck out one. Benton committed three errors, resulting in three runs.
â€śOur defense didnâ€™t back her up and we didnâ€™t give her any support,â€ť Cox said.
McCurry and Hardig led Benton in hits in game two with two each. McCurry added two RBIs while Hardig added another and scored twice.
With the win, Benton won themselves another game, this time against a Cedar Ridge as they moved their record to a still impressive 19-2 on the year.
â€śIn the end, we did fight back,â€ť Cox added.
Lady Panthers end
tourney with 12-0 rout
After narrowly escaping a second straight loss in game two of the Beebe/Searcy Tournament, the Lady Panthers put a beatdown on Cedar Ridge to end their day.
Benton started the game by putting six of their first eight hitters on base. Stevi Berg led the first off with a walk, while Bono followed with a single, setting Goldman up to do some early damage in the first inning.
That is exactly what happened as she turned on a 0-0 pitch and drove it for a two RBI double to put Benton up early, 2-0.
Parker reached following the double after being hit by a pitch. Atkinson continued Bentonâ€™s first inning tear with another RBI double, putting the Lady Panthers on top 3-0 early. LeVart drove in Bentonâ€™s fourth run of the inning on an RBI sacrifice fly to left field. Benton scored four and stranded two in the opening inning of game three.
White started for Benton in game three and was nearly perfect as shut shut Cedar Ridge down, only allowing two runners to reach base during the game. Cedar Ridge did not collect a hit in the game until the fourth and final inning. White struck out seven hitters in the game, including three in the fourth inning.
â€śWhite came in and pitched really well in the last game,â€ť Cox said.
â€śI was very proud of her.â€ť
As for Bentonâ€™s offense, it continued to roll. After going scoreless in the second, the Lady Panthers added seven runs in the third as they batted around before adding another run in the fourth. Seven straight Lady Panthers reached base and scored to start the third inning, including a two run bomb by Durham. Benton left the bases loaded in the fourth as they went on to beat Cedar Ridge 12-0 to move their record to 20-2 on the year.
Atkinson led Benton in game three with a 3-3 showing at the plate, driving home two runs. Bono went 2-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Benton went 11-20 at the plate and walked six times.
The Lady Panthers combined to go 22-48 at the plate for a .458 batting average in the tournament.
â€śIâ€™ll take that,â€ť Cox said. â€śThat is a pretty good batting average. We deafeningly finished the day better than we started.â€ť
Bentonâ€™s pitching allowed 10 hits and six runs over the course of the three games.
Benton will head to Lake Hamilton on Wednesday to take on the Lady Wolves in another 6A matchup. The Lady Panthers beat Lake Hamilton earlier this year.
â€śWe have a big week this week with Lake Hamilton and Texarkana,â€ť Cox said.
â€śThis is going to be big for us if we are going to win this conference as we start the second half of the conference season.â€ť
First pitch is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday.