The Heber Springs softball team opens 4-4A district tournament play today at Pottsville against the host school with a lot on the line for both teams.
A win would advance the Panthers to the 4A-North Regional Tournament at Morrilton next week.
“It has been three seasons since a Heber softball team has played in the postseason,” Heber Springs coach Dusty West said. “We have talked all year about setting the foundation for the future and rebuilding the legacy of Heber Softball and this is part of the equation.”
To rebuild that legacy, the Panthers (9-11 overall) must get past a Pottsville team that beat Heber Springs 7-0 on April 5th in Pottsville.
“We are excited to play the host school Tuesday in the first round,” West said on Monday. “They beat us the first time on only two earned runs.
“If we can limit the number of free passes and errors, we will have a great opportunity to move on to the semis (of the district tournament) and regionals. Making a regional has been this team’s goal this year. We knew it would be a challenge and we have set ourselves up to make it reality.”
The Panthers are coming off a week which saw victories over Rose Bud (7-3 on April 18) and South Side Bee Branch on Friday (13-6) sandwiched in-between a 13-2 loss to a hard-hitting Dardanelle team on April 19th.
“This team has really been playing well here of late,” West said. “They have been getting better every time we get to play. Our pitching has become more consistent over the past two weeks and that has really helped us as a team.”
The Panthers will play the second game of the day (Dardanelle will open with Ozark) around 6:30 p.m. A win would set-up a re-match with conference champion Morrilton in the semifinals on Thursday at Pottsville.
“Coming from where we were this time last year, I couldn’t be more excited for this team and the opportunity they will have Tuesday night,” West said on Monday. “We have improved in all areas on the field this year and Tuesday is a chance for these kids to see their hard work throughout the summer/fall/winter finally pay off. ”
4-4A CONFERENCE FINAL STANDINGS Morrilton 5-0 16-6 Clarksville 4-1 11-7 Dardanelle 3-2 13-5 Pottsville 2-3 3-13 Heber Springs 1-4 9-11 Ozark 0-5 3-17
HEBER SPRINGS 13, SOUTH SIDE BEE BRANCH 6
Senior Kylie Carr finished with five RBIs in helping lead Heber Springs to the 13-6 win.
Each team collected 11 hits each. Heber Springs was led by junior Madison Clemons, who finished 3-for-3 at the plate.
The Panthers score a pair of runs in the first inning highlighted by a Carr double.
Singles by Clemons, Carr and Gracie Parish, and a walk by Vallie Cantrell helped Heber Springs plate six runs in the fourth inning as the Panthers led 8-0.
South Side plated three in the fifth, two in the sixth and one in the seventh.
Addison Hudspeth also finished with a pair of hits for the Panthers.
Freshman Taylor Parker claimed the win in the circle for Heber Springs working four innings and striking out four. Brooklyn Barnes and Hudsepth each pitched in relief.
DARDANELLE 13, HEBER SPRINGS 2
Dardanelle scored in five of the seven innings to claim the win over Heber Springs.
Trailing 6-0, the Panthers plated a run in the fourth on a Hudspeth RBI single that drove in Parker, who had reached on a double.
The Sand Lizards made it 9-1 with three in the fifth and 10-1 with a run in the sixth before the Panthers plated another run after Vallie Cantrell singled and scored on a sacrifice bunt by Rylee Birmingham.
HEBER SPRINGS 7, ROSE BUD 3
Parker pitched a complete striking out 11 for Heber Springs allowing three runs on seven hits.
Hudspeth went 2-for-4 at the plate to lead the Panthers.
Rose Bud scored all three of its runs in the fifth inning.
Heber Springs took a 1-0 advantage in the second after Hope Turney reached on a walk and would later score on a Barnes single.
The Panthers made it 3-0 in the third as both Parish and Turney reached base and would later score on an error.
In the fourth, Parker walked, stole second and score on an error off the bat of Hudspeth. After a strikeout, Clemons drove in a Hudspeth with a two-out single to right.
Heber Springs added two insurance runs in the sixth as Parker and Birmingham both scored.