Benton needs extra innings

BENTON – The Benton Lady Panthers softball team continued their dominance on Tuesday when they welcomed the Nashville Lady Scrappers into Lady Panther Park. The Lady Panthers beat Nashville 7-0 in the Bootsie Gordon Tournament on Saturday, on their way to winning the tournament.

Tuesday was a much harder contest for Benton, but the Lady Panthers did prevail at the end winning 2-1 in the eighth inning.

Starting pitcher Lauren White allowed a hit to Nashville in the first, but was able to escape unscathed after forcing a ground out and getting a strikeout to end the inning.

Benton struck first once again in the home half after Stevi Berg reached on an error. Korie Parker drove Berg home with a single with two outs in the first. That was all the Lady Panthers could muster in the first as they took an early 1-0 lead. White continued to roll for Benton after allowing only one runner in the second before getting three outs with two ground outs and another strikeout.

For the Benton bats, it seemed as if they fell asleep for the rest of the game. Nashville shut Benton down for six straight innings while allowing only four runners over that span.

The Lady Scrappers finally figured White out for a moment as they tied the game up at 1-1 after getting a runner on via an error on White.
Moments later, the runner scored on a wall-reaching double to center field. After that, White put together her best shut-down performance into play as she did not allow another run in the game. White did run into a little bit of trouble in the sixth inning when she allowed back-to-back runners to reach base to start the inning.
But White did not give in as she forced another one-strikeout, two-ground out inning on Nashville.

It was not until the eighth inning that Benton would finally break through the Lady Scrappers’ pitching barrier and put the game away for good. After starting the inning with a runner on second due to extra inning rules, Benton’s Drew Melton dropped a sacrifice bunt to move the runner over but the throw was low and skipped into the left field foul territory bringing the runner around third and to the plate for the winning run.

Nashville’s head coach argued that Melton interfered with the play at first by running out of the basepath, but the call was not overturned and instead left Benton with their seventh straight win.

Benton only mustered three hits in the 2-1 win. Parker, Melton and Jessica Hardig all had one hit. Parker and Melton tallied Benton’s RBIs.

Nashville forces Benton to fly out or pop out 10 times. As for White pitching, she forced the Lady Scrappers to ground out 12 times and strikeout nine times. White also only gave up three hits in the win.

“I knew they would come out strong,” head Benton Coach Heidi Cox said about Nashville’s performance.

“I knew that their coach was going to take them and have them ready to play us.”

Cox said that being able to say that you beat Nashville, Arkansas, “then you have really done something,” following Saturday’s win over the Lady Scrappers.

As far as the pitching by White, Cox was very happy with her performance.
“She was very good,” Cox said. “She kept them off balance and she did everything that I asked of her. She is a very good leader on the field.”

Tuesday’s win marked the end of non-conference play for Benton. On Friday, the Lady Panthers will host Lake Hamilton in their first conference game of the season.

“A lot of teams are going to try and play a short game against us because our pitching is very good right now,” Cox said. “They are going to make us have to make defensive plays.”

“I have got to make sure we are ready by putting us in the right situations in practice,” Cox added.

With Tuesday’s win, Benton moved their record to 7-1 on the season.
First pitch is set for 5 p.m. Friday at Lady Panther Park.