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NORTH LITTLE ROCK -- Friday was night full of defending champions and second-place finishers in North Little Rock. The first round of play slated the defending 3A champ Harmony Grove against 1Aâ€™s victor Taylor Lady Tigers. With two teams looking for a repeat this season, Harmony Grove got in the early shot, punching Taylor in the mouth to the tune of 9-0.
â€śWe hit very well today,â€ť Head Coach Sammi Massey said. â€śWe played really well. Other than one error on defense it went pretty well.â€ť
Thanks to another stellar pitching and hitting clinic put on by sophomore LJ Helmich and junior Kristen Dempsey, the Lady Cardinals strolled to victory. Dempsey led Harmony Grove with a 3-for-4 showing at the dish with a blast and two RBI.
â€ś(Dempsey) is going to come through at the plate huge and also on the mound, of course,â€ť Massey said. â€śToday she got to play first and played a heck of a game there and at the plate. It was huge.â€ť
Helmich held her own in the circle, throwing five innings of shutout ball, allowing two hits and ringing up nine. The young lefty made up for a disappointing night at the plate on Thursday, going 3 for 3 with two RBI and a walk in Fridayâ€™s victory.
â€śIt is nice to have both of them (Helmich and Dempsey) pitching,â€ť Massey said. â€śThey work well together and feed off of each other most definitely. Itâ€™s great to have that 1-2 attack so neither one of them has to play every game.â€ť
Harmony Grove has outscored its last two opponents 24-0, with pitchers giving up just two hits and striking out 19. Dempsey threw a perfect game Thursday in a 15-0 rout of Kirby.
The Lady Cardinals jumped on top early Friday, scoring three quick runs in the top of the first. Dempseyâ€™s 3-run shot drove home Josee Carman and Helmich to give the Lady Cardinals the 3-0 lead.
Harmony Grove added an insurance run in the fourth on an RBI single by Helmich, scoring senior Holly Drombetta from third. With a 4-0 lead after two, Harmony Grove cooled off in the third before blowing the gate open in the fourth with a five-run showing.
With Helmich leading off the inning, the Lady Cardinals strung together five straight hits, resulting in the inningâ€™s runs. Dempsey, Madison Mickle and sophomore catcher Faith Otts drove in a run each in the inning. Otts stole home while Hannah Hill crossed the dish on a passed ball to give Harmony Grove the 9-0 lead.
With an inning to play, Helmich gave up a double and a walk before getting back-to-back fly outs to end the inning and the game, sending Harmony Grove to Round 2 against host North Little Rock. Overnight rain cancelled all Saturday games.
The Lady Cardinals bashed out 14 hits in the game, making for a happy Massey.
â€śWe hit the ball very well today,â€ť Massey said. â€śEveryone hit well.â€ť
Drombetta, Otts and Hill all collected two hits each in the win. The 3-4-5-6 holes combined for the teamâ€™s seven RBI.
â€śTaylor wasnâ€™t just exceptionally good,â€ť Massey said. â€śThey played decent defense and we had to hit the ball.â€ť