Lady Cougars Set for Regional Softball Tourney
The Lady Cougars carried a strong late-season surge into tournament play last week, advancing all the way to the finals of the 2A-3 District Softball Tournament at East Poinsett County in Lepanto Saturday. Rector met rival Marmaduke in the championship contest, which saw the Lady Greyhounds emerge victorious with late inning heroics, 8-7.
Marmaduke's Brittany Banning hit a bloop single to left field with two away in the bottom of the seventh, scoring Deborah Pratt and Tabitha Hyten to give MHS the win and the district crown.
The Lady Cougars started the contest in control, jumping ahead 4-0 in the top of first frame. Courtney Shepard singled to start the RHS offense, with Johnna Lopez following with a double to place two runners in scoring position. Kendal Gunn grounded out up the middle, but was able to bring home Shepard. Brittany Fair followed with a bloop single to score Lopez. Later, Cheyenne Ellis added the finishing touches to powerful start, driving in Fair and Lindsey Ford with a two-run double, as RHS plated four runs to start the game.
The Lady Greyhounds responded immediately, driving in three runs to keep things close in the bottom half of the first, cutting the lead to one, 4-3. Marmaduke would knot the game at 4-4 with a lone run in the second frame.
Both teams added a pair of runs in the fifth inning. The Lady Cougars began the frame with a single by Lopez and a double by Ellis. Emma Hobbs grounded out to bring home Lopez. Lenae Haley kept it on the ground to score Ellis, giving Rector a brief 6-4 advantage before the Lady 'Hounds once again tied the game in their half of the fifth.
The Lady Cougars took a 7-6 lead in the top of the sixth on an RBI single by Lynch.
The duo of Lopez and Lynch worked the circle for Rector on the afternoon. Lopez got the start, going three innings. Lynch came on in relief for the final four frames. Lopez allowed four runs; Lynch gave up three.
Ellis and Fair had two hits each for the Lady Cougars, with Ellis driving in two runs and Fair plating one. Shepard, Lopez, Gunn and Lynch added a hit each in the contest. Lynch, Haley, Gunn and Hobbs drove in a run each.
The Lady Cougars are set to face Cedar Ridge at 12:30 p.m. Friday in the first round of regional tourney play at Lepanto.
Marmaduke is set to face Pangburn at 3 p.m. Friday.
The Lady Cougars brought out the big sticks this past Friday, upending previously undefeated Buffalo Island Central, 8-2, in the semifinals of the district tournament at Lepanto. BIC entered the contest at 18-0 while RHS, winners of 10 of their previous 11, entered the game with an 11-7 record.
"I'm just proud for the girls," RHS coach Lewis Earnest said of his team. "They fought their way back from a 1-5 start to the season. They made all this happen. We couldn't catch a break to start the season and now we're headed to the regional tournament with a shot to go to state right there for the taking."
Stellar play was the Rector hallmark on the afternoon, especially in the field. The Lady Cougars had no errors in the contest, even playing against one of the top teams in the state.
"That's the first time we've not had any errors in a game this season," Earnest said. "That's a huge deal, and is something that's hurt us this year. We didn't make any mistakes in the field and made two double plays. It was a great effort."
Gunn was a juggernaut of offense for the Lady Cougars. The senior finished the day four of five at the plate with a homerun, two doubles and three RBIs. Lopez, Ford and Ellis added two hits each, with Fair and Ellis driving in a run each. Haley added a two-run single, while Fair and Shepard each contributed a hit in the victory.
Lynch worked all seven innings for the Lady Cougars in the circle, allowing two runs on five hits and walking three.
"Every one of our players contributed," Earnest said. "BIC was unbeaten for a reason; they're a real good team. We came in and played our best game of the season. If we play like that, we can make a run at state."
The Lady Cougars opened the tournament with a 12-0 win over Cross County Wednesday and a 7-2 win over Riverside Thursday.
Every Lady Cougar managed at least two hits in the win over Cross County, with Shepard leading the way with a 4-4 performance in the four inning contest. The senior cashed in two runs with a pair of triples in the victory. Fair hammered in two runs, including a solo homerun in the one-sided campaign. Gunn hit two doubles, joining Lopez, Hobbs, Haley, Ford, Ellis and Lynch in the two-hit club on the day.
Lynch secured the win, allowing just one hit while striking out seven in four innings of work.
The Lady Cougars advanced to the semifinals with a 7-2 victory over Riverside in the second round on Thursday. Rector scored five runs in the top of the seventh to bust up a 2-2 tie and take home the win.
Gunn, Ellis, Hobbs and Haley finished with two hits each for the Lady Cougars.
Lopez earned the win in the complete game performance. The senior hurler allowed two runs on five hits while striking out three and walking two.