Benton scores 31, tosses 2 no-hitters in doubleheader

With the 2012 regular season coming to a close for many high school softball teams across the state, the Benton Lady Panthers are trying to keep the momentum in their favor before heading into the 6A State Tournament that begins on May 10. Coming into Friday’s match against Pine Bluff, the Lady Panthers were the proud owners of a 24-2 overall record, an undefeated 6A South record of 11-0 and a three-game winning streak.

By nightfall on Friday, Benton added two more wins to their impressive season after putting back-to-back beatings on Pine Bluff for a combined score of 31-1 in the doubleheader.

The Lady Panthers won game one by a score of 15-0 behind a nice performance from starting pitcher Lauren White, who also threw a no-hitter in the win, using eight strikeouts to do so.

White made short work of Pine Bluff in the three-inning no-hitter, sitting down the first three hitters in order in the first, followed by three more strikeouts in the second and a walk. In the third, White struck out the first two hitters and forced a routine ground out to end the third.

For Benton’s offense, it was anything but cold. The Lady Panthers opened the first inning with a seven-run performance as they batted around.

Stevie Berg led the inning off with a walk and later scored on wild pitch by Pine Bluff. Sydnee Goldman reached on a walk just before Korie Parker lined an RBI single into the outfield, following a fly out by Bailey LeVart for the inning’s first out. Taylor Atkinson drove Parker home with an RBI double to give Benton the 3-0 advantage early in the first. After a ground by Hailey Durham for the second out, Jessica Hardig walked to put two on with two outs in the first. Amanda Jones singled home Atkinson to make it 4-0 Benton. A hit by pitch to Drew Melton followed by an error on Pine Bluff and a hit by Berg left Benton with an early 7-0 lead. The second inning was much quieter for the Lady Panthers as they were only able to push across one run on a hit and a walk. LeVart scored in the second to make it 8-0 Benton.

Benton added six more runs on three hits, a walk and a hit by pitch in the third to win 15-0 in early innings.

Parker and Atkinson led Benton in game one at the plate with 2 for 3 performances. Each scored twice and drove home a run.

Berg went 2 for 2 with two runs scored and two stolen bases in the game as well.

With the win, the Lady Panthers stayed perfect in conference action, moving their streak to 12 straight in conference play.

Game two of the night, with Benton playing as the visiting team, was nearly the exact same as the first.

Jessica Franklin took to the circle for Benton in game two and duplicated White’s performance in game one, tossing Benton’s second no-hitter of the night.

Franklin, who is usually the more dominate strikeout pitcher on the staff, used only four strikeouts to sit down Pine Bluff in game two.

Benton used another strong first inning, posting nine runs in the opening frame to take the early advantage. Karrie McCurry opened the first inning with a double, followed by an error that put Jenna James on base. Goldman followed with an RBI double, scoring James to give the Lady Panthers a 2-0 advantage. Atkinson picked up in game two right where she left off in game one, adding another double to her resume. Six more hits, a hit by pitch and an error in the inning left Benton with the overpowering 9-0 first-inning lead.

With Pine Bluff posing as the home team, Franklin sat the Lady Zebras down in order in the first, using two strikeouts and a pop out to end the inning. In the bottom of the second, Franklin used two fly outs and a pop out to retire the side in order once again. In the third, Franklin ran into some trouble after striking out the first hitter. With one out Pine Bluff reached on an error and scored on a second error along with two wild pitches.

Franklin escaped the inning by use of a caught stealing and another strikeout to end the game.

Benton added seven runs in their half of the second to take a16-0 lead before Pine Bluff scored to make it a final of 16-1.

Goldman and Atkinson both went 2-2 at the plate in game two. Both drove in two runs in the contest as well. Atkinson blasted a double and a triple and scored three times in the win.

In the doubleheader, Benton scored 31 runs and tossed two no-hitters while allowing just one run to score. Atkinson led all hitters, going 4 for 5 at the plate with three RBIs and five runs scored.

With the win, Benton moves its record to an impressive 26-2 overall and 13-0 in conference play. The Lady Panthers traveled to El Dorado on Monday for another 6A South match. That story will be in Wednesday’s sports. The Lady Panthers will take on Vilonia on the road on Thursday as they continue to prepare for the state tournament that begins on May 10.