SHERWOOD — The game of softball is all about momentum, and in Monday’s semifinal game between Benton and Mountain Home momentum was being tossed between the two teams like a hot potato.
“We got the most out of our momentum,” coach Eric Ryan said. “We would get it and they would get it. We would go back and forth.”
The Benton Lady Panthers scored five runs in the seventh inning to defeat Mountain Home 7-5 to advance to their third straight 6A State Final in Fayetteville.
Benton would load the bases on two hits and a hit-by-pitch before Sydnee Golman, who was pinch-hitting for an injured Kara Franklin, singled home Tiffani Pledger to tie the game. Hailey Durham and Jessica Hardig followed with a pair of RBI singles to score two more runs.
Brandi Barnes grounded out to the pitcher, but it was enough to score the fifth run of the inning.
Franklin jammed her thumb earlier in the game and was struggling to take swings and catch for most of the game. By the seventh inning, it had turned purple, so she told Ryan somebody had to swing for her.
“The little girl that came in there shot the ball through the hole and scored the run,” Ryan said. “It was a total team effort.”
Ryan said Franklin should be able to play by Saturday’s game in Fayetteville. Searcy defeated Sheridan 3-2 in eight innings Monday night so Benton and Searcy will play each other this weekend for the state title.
Mountain Home’s Shelby Anderson pitched against Benton last year in the state final, so defeating her and the Lady Bombers in the semifinals was sweet justice for the Lady Panthers.
“They were looking for her,” Ryan said. “We are a solid hitting team all the way through our line up.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Mountain Home hit back-to-back home runs by Anderson and Miranda Manchester, including one that bounced off the outfielder’s glove as she fell on top of the make-shift fence in left field.
Junior pitcher Lauren White pitched five innings, allowing two runs on three hits with two walks and one strikeout. Sophomore pitcher Jessica Franklin closed out the final two innings, allowing two runs (both home runs) on two hits with a strikeout.
Jessica Hardig had four hits in the game and scored two runs.