BENTON – The Benton Lady Panthers softball team has hit a bit of a hot streak as of late. After falling in the season opener to Bryant, the Lady Panthers have won eight straight games, including a 10-0 shutout victory over Lake Hamilton on Friday to open conference play.
Jessica Franklin started the game in the circle for Benton and continued her early season success. After sitting down the Lady Wolves in order in the first, Benton came to the plate and jumped on top early. Stevi Berg led the game off with a pop out to the shortstop. But then the hit parade began. Daphney Bono started with a single followed by another single from Sydney Goldman to put two on with one out with Korie Parker coming to the plate. With a full count, Parker stroked a screaming two-RBI double into left scoring Bono and Goldman to but Benton up 2-0 early. Taylor Atkinson added a fourth straight Benton hit with a single sending Parker to third. Atkinson advanced to second on the throw.
Then a crazy turn of events happened to end the inning. Haley Durham grounded out to third base for the second out. On the throw over to first, Parker broke for the plate and was gunned down for a 5-3-2 double play.
Franklin found herself in a bit of a pickle in the second inning. After walking the first batter, Franklin struck out back-to-back Lady Wolves. But then her control got a little weak and she put a second runner on after hitting her. That was all Lake Hamilton could get as Franklin settled down and struck out her third batter of the inning, this one on only three pitches.
Benton continued their success at the plate in the bottom of the second. Bailey LeVart started Benton off with a walk. A sacrifice bunt from Jessica Hardig sent LeVart to second with a hot hitting Drew Melton coming to the plate. Melton continued to hit well as she drove a single through the infield putting runners on the corners with one out in the second.
A squeeze play by Berg scored LeVart from third to make it 3-0 Benton, bringing Bono back to the plate. On a 2-1 count, Bono cracked a double to score Melton, making it 4-0 Benton early. The hits continued to come for Benton as Goldman ripped another single, this time scoring Bono. A pop out to second by Parker ended the inning with a 5-0 Benton lead.
Franklin continued to do her job in the circle, sitting down Lake Hamilton in order in the third and fourth innings. The only problem was that Benton too was sat down in order in the third and fourth. Franklin allowed another runner to reach in the fifth, this time on an error by Bono at first with two outs. Franklin forced the Lady Wolves ninth hitter to ground out. Through the first five innings, Franklin still had the shutout intact and a no-hitter in the works. On the offensive end, Benton still could not score anymore. After a strikeout and a fly out to start the fifth inning, Parker reached on a double, but was left stranded after Atkinson flew out to center field.
Franklin opened the top of the sixth with a pop out to third before allowing her first and only hit of the game on a single on Lake Hamilton’s next atbat. That was the worst thing to happen as Franklin forced another fly out and another strikeout to end the inning. With a 5-0 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth, it was unlikely that the game would end early with Benton needing five more runs to do so. Durham started the inning with a double to center. LeVart followed with a fly out to right, allowing Durham to tag and take third. Hardig also flew out on a sacrifice fly scoring Durham and giving Benton a none on and two out situation with Melton at the dish.
Once again, Melton delivered with a single. Berg continued the hitting for Benton, lacing a double to score Melton. Bono followed with another single, scoring Berg to make it 8-0. Needing just two more runs to end the game, Parker came to the plate with two on and two outs. After letting a ball go by, Parker stroked another double to score Bono and Goldman to end the game at 10-0, advantage Benton.
“To get this win under our belt, especially over Lake Hamilton, is big,” head coach Heidi Cox said. “We start the conference out against the top three schools in our conference in Lake Hamilton, Texarkana and Sheridan. So, this win was big for us.”
Parker led the game for Benton, going 3 for 4 with four RBIs. Bono and Goldman also went 3 for 4 scoring a combined five times and driving in a total of three runs.
Melton added two hits and scored twice in the contest.
Franklin ended her night with a one-hit shutout and five strikeouts.
“Franklin came out and did exactly what she needed to do to shut them out,” Cox said. “She had some great defense behind her and we banged out a couple of hits to win. I am very proud of them and the way they played. They played well and fought hard.”
With the win, Benton moved to 8-1 overall and 1-0 in conference play. WIth spring break next week, the Lady Panthers will take to the field on Tuesday, March 27, when they head to Texarkana for another 6A match. First pitch is set for 5 p.m.
The match is no ordinary game for Benton when they travel south to face the Lady Razorbacks. For six years, Cox coached Arkansas High before going to Texas High for two years before coming to Benton.
“I guess I was kind of known as a trader there,” Cox said. “It’s kind of like if I were to leave here and go to Bryant.”
Cox said that she, along with her girls are extremely excited about playing the game and are looking forward to the competition.
As for what the break holds in-store for Benton over the next week? Cox said that her girls need some time to rest and that they will get after it in practice over the weekend before making the trek to Texarkana next Tuesday.View more articles in: