BY EASTON LEONARD –
The Mena Ladycats softball team (12-16) took on the Monticello Lady Billies (23-5), Friday afternoon in the first round of the 2017 4-A South Region Softball Tournament. Mena came into Friday afternoons game being the fourth seed out of the seventh district, while the Lady Billies came into the game being the first seed out of the eighth district.
Reagan Sikes led off the ball game for the Ladycats with a double off of the right field wall, but was tagged out between second and third trying to extend her hit to a triple. After a popup single from AnnaBeth Hunter, and a line out to left field from Lexi Brooks, Sealy Thigpen put Mena on the board with a two-run home run to right field. Autumn Powell then grounded out to third base for the third out of the inning.
Lexi Brooks pitched for the Ladycats on Friday afternoon. Monticello’s lead off hitter hit a line drive off of the centerfield wall, but was thrown out at second trying to add a base, for the first out of the inning. The next batter then hit a line drive single to right field, but was thrown out trying to steal second a few pitches later. Brooks struck out the third batter of the inning, keeping the Ladycats 2-0 lead in tact.
The Ladycats went down in order in the top of the second, as Hattie Hunter popped out to the shortstop, and Lynch and Harrison struck out swinging. In the bottom of the second inning, Brooks kept the Lady Billies under control after walking a batter, getting the first two outs via pop out and line out, then striking out the last batter. Mena maintained a 2-0 lead after two complete innings.
In the top of the third, Mena’s first two batters reached base as Lockhart singled to left field and Reagan Sikes walked. AnnaBeth Hunter hit a sacrifice bunt for the first out of the inning, but moved the runners up to second and third. The fourth batter of the inning, Lexi Brooks, grounded a ball to third, in which the Lady Billies threw home for the out, putting runners at the corners. Sealy Thigpen then came to the plate and hit a pop up single over the second baseman, driving in two more runs for the Ladycats. The next batter, Autumn Powell, then grounded out to the shortstop, ending the inning.
With the score 4-0 in favor of Mena, in the bottom of the third, Lexi Brooks retired the Lady Billies in order with a pop out, a strike out, and a fly out to left field. Keeping the Ladycats lead at 4-0 after three innings.
Mena was unable to get anything going in the top of the fourth, but in the bottom half of the inning, the Lady Billies were able to connect with a few hits to score their first run of the ballgame. The Ladycats held Monticello to only one run in the fourth, keeping their lead, with the score 4-1.
Both teams went down scoreless in the fifth inning, bringing the game to the sixth. In the top of the inning, Thigpen led off with a pop up single behind the shortstop, but the Ladycats were unable to connect with any more hits, going down with two pop outs and a line out. To lead off the bottom of the sixth, Monticello hit a solo home run to deep centerfield. A few batters later, after two walks, with one out, the Lady Billies hit a ball off of the wall in left field, scoring one more run. Brooks and the Ladycats were able to escape the inning with a few groundouts. After six complete innings, Mena continued to lead the ballgame with a score of 4-3.
In the final inning of play, the Ladycats were retired on three balls in the outfield, with no runs scored. In the bottom half of the seventh, Brooks struck out the first two batters she faced, and induced a groundball to first base for the final out of the game, securing Mena with the win, 4-3.
In continued action in the Regional Tournament, the Ladycats went down scoreless against Nashville 6-0 on Saturday and on Monday, Mena fell just short against Crossett 3-1. Moving on to the 4-A State Softball Tournament, the Ladycats will be a four seed and take on the two seed out of the north region, Pea Ridge (27-4), on Thursday at 3:00pm.