BY NORM BETZ –
After securing the 4S No. 1 seed for the 4A State Tournament, the Mena Ladycats returned home to host the tournament. Not that the Ladycats struggled playing district and regional ball on the road, it’s always nice to come back home, especially when the stakes are a trip to the state championship. The Ladycats outscored their opponents 48-3 over five games in the district and regional tournaments and outscored two state tournament opponents 18-0 to qualify to play for the 4A State Championship on Friday, May 22 at 3:00 p.m. at Bogle Park on the campus of the University of Arkansas.
The Ladycats first match-up was against the 4A-2 District Champion and 3E State seeded Heber Springs, in the quarterfinals. Mena had little trouble with the Lady Panthers, scored runs in each inning and ultimately won the contest, 10-0. Sophomore Lexi Brooks picked up the win, pitching five scoreless innings. Brooks faced 17 batters, sent nine back to the dugout via strikeout, walked one and gave up two harmless hits. Brooks threw a total of 76 pitches, 48 strikes and 28 balls.
Offensively, the Ladycats were led by junior Macy Brotherton, who picked up two RBI’s on a single and a home run, going two-for-three from the plate. Juniors Jordan Ward, Kenzi Spurgin, Kristen Kesterson each had two RBI’s on one hit, a single and a pair of doubles, respectively.
The 4A State Semifinal game featured Mena against the defending 4A State Champion Lady Bearcats of Brookland. The Ladycats fell to Brookland in the 2014 4A State Championship, 5-2. Mena was looking for revenge and the Ladycats did just that, blowing past the Lady Bearcats, 8-0.
Brookland, listed on the bracket as the top team, was awarded home field advantage by default. Both Mena and Brookland won their respective Regional Tournaments. The Lady Bearcats started the psychological games by choosing to take the Ladycats third base dugout for the game. The Ladycats were unfazed and kept their eyes on the prize.
Junior hurler Jordan Ward pitched an incredible game, striking out 16 of the 25 batters she faced over seven scoreless innings. Ward threw 108 pitches, 77 for strikes and 31 for balls. Ward gave up no runs on four hits and did not walk a single batter.
The Ladycats scored two runs in the first inning, one in the second, three in the third inning, and one in the fifth and seventh innings to defeat the Lady Bearcats, 8-0. Mena scored the eight runs on 15 hits, with three free passes, and just two Ladycats striking out. Senior Lexi Hansard had two RBI’s, going two-for-four from the dish, while junior Madi Brotherton also finished with a pair of RBI’s. Senior Bailey Bunch, juniors Ward, Kenzi Spurgin and sophomore Lexi Brooks each had one RBI in the 8-0 redemption victory.
With the Ladycats win over Brookland and Bauxite’s win over Nashville, the table is set for the 4A State Championship. Mena will battle Bauxite for the fourth time this season, with the Ladycats winning the first three meetings. The 4A State Championship game will be played Friday, May 22, at 3:00 p.m. at Bogle Park at the University of Arkansas.