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 1A’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.
“We hit very well today,” Head Coach Sammi Massey said. “We played really well. Other than one error on defense it went pretty well.”
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.
“(Dempsey) is going to come through at the plate huge and also on the mound, of course,” Massey said. “Today she got to play first and played a heck of a game there and at the plate. It was huge.”
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 Friday’s victory.
“It is nice to have both of them (Helmich and Dempsey) pitching,” Massey said. “They work well together and feed off of each other most definitely. It’s great to have that 1-2 attack so neither one of them has to play every game.”
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. Dempsey’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 inning’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.
“We hit the ball very well today,” Massey said. “Everyone hit well.”
Drombetta, Otts and Hill all collected two hits each in the win. The 3-4-5-6 holes combined for the team’s seven RBI.
“Taylor wasn’t just exceptionally good,” Massey said. “They played decent defense and we had to hit the ball.”