BY MELANIE BUCK – (PULSE PHOTOS BY DANA HARVEY)
The Mena Ladycats stormed the University of Arkansas’ Bogle Park field on Friday, May 20, in Fayetteville amid a large crowd of loyal Ladycat fans and pulled out all the stops to bring home the Class 4A Arkansas State Softball Championship trophy for the second consecutive year. In a seven-inning, 3-0 game, the Ladycats were just as great on the field as they were in the batters box.
Playing the Pocahontas Lady Redskins, both teams played tremendous defense and kept the game scoreless, many times leaving runners stranded on base. “We hit the ball pretty well. We had runners on base in every inning, we just couldn’t get that two-out hit to get someone across the plate,” said Head Coach Ray Hunter. It wasn’t until the sixth inning when Sealy Thigpen made it across home plate, thanks to a hit by Reagan Sikes to claim the first scoring run of the day.
That rallied the Ladycats to another level and when the top of the seventh inning rolled around, a renewed spirit launched the team into victory. Jordan Ward knocked the ball out of the park, bringing the score to 2-0. Kenzi Spurgin made it to first base on a hit to center field and was brought home by a sacrifice bunt from Kristen Kesterson, sealing the score at 3-0.
When the Lady Redskins took the field in the bottom of the seventh, the Ladycats kept them at bay and ultimately shut them out to bring home the gold once again. During the game, the Ladycats had a total of twelve hits with an overall team batting average of .387.
Pitcher Jordan Ward had 10 strikeouts, walked none, had her first ever high school home run, and was named Most Valuable Player of the game. “You could see the joy on her face as she rounded the bases,” said Coach Hunter of Ward’s seventh inning homer that went sailing over the fence. “Of course, as the ultimate team player, she went and congratulated everybody else for being a part of it,” he continued.
In the last four years, the Ladycats have won 102 games and have lost an average of only 3-4 games per year. Coach Hunter said, “This is the most successful group of seniors that we’ve ever had. They’ve had help from several teammates along the way.” Five of the six seniors are committed to various colleges to continue their careers in softball.
As Coach Ray Hunter put it last week, “This team doesn’t know what it’s like to not play in a state championship game.” The senior players on the Ladycats, Jordan Ward, Kenzi Spurgin, Kristen Kesterson, Macy Brotherton, Madelyn Brotherton, and Daryan Torix, have been in the state finals all four of their high school years, placing runner-up the first two years, and claiming the ultimate title the following two years. It’s obvious to their fans that their experience and dedication made for an unbelievable high school career and many stories for the history books.
LOOK FOR A SPECIAL SECTION CELEBRATING THIS TEAM’S HISTORIC 2-TIME STATE CHAMPIONSHIP IN THIS WEEK’S ISSUE OF THE POLK COUNTY PULSE ON STANDS, WEDNESDAY, MAY 25.