BENNINGTON – A pair of Thursday victories has the Lady Bears one win away from the state fast-pitch softball finals.
The Lady Bears continue their quest for state with a 2 p.m. Friday game against the winner between New Lima and Tupelo (held at noon). Both will be hosted by Bennington on Friday.
Bennington sophomore Callie Clark took the pitcher’s circle in both games as the Lady Bears defeated Coleman 4-2 and outlasted Tupelo 8-5 in the Class B regional playoffs. She gave Lady Wildcat and Lady Tiger hitters a steady stream of fastballs and change-ups, and what got into play was often gobbled up by the defense behind Clark.
“I couldn’t ask for a better defense,” she said. “If I didn’t have them behind me, our team wouldn’t be here.”
Tristen Allen, Harley Minyard, Ashten Belvin and Crystal Tate all crossed home in the regional playoff opener over Coleman. Tupelo slugged past New Lima 14-11 to set up the nightcap. New Lima run-ruled the Lady ‘Cats 12-2, eliminating Coleman from the playoffs.
The Bennington defense turned a pair of double plays in the final two innings against Tupelo to shut the door. After a fifth-inning rally for the Lady Tigers, Clark was cruising through the sixth with an out and a walk when a Tupelo line drive found Ciara Parker’s glove at third. She then shot the ball across to Marynna Mays at first to double up the Lady Tigers.
But it was a dramatic seventh inning finish which left the home crowd cheering Thursday. Ahead 8-5, Clark issued a lead-off walk but the next batter got to second on a force out and an overthrow at first. A Tupelo single was stopped by right fielder Anna Folsom to keep the lead runner from scoring.
Still, two were on with the tying runner at the plate and only one down. The ball was ripped to Tristen Allen in left field who roped it back to catcher Harley Minyard, forcing the lead runner back to third. She wisely got the ball to the infielders for a tag out at second to end the game.
Tupelo took a 2-0 lead into the second inning before Bennington scored five runs on four walks, three hit batters and an infield single, all after two outs. Ciara Parker got the only true run batted in when her infield grounder scored Tristen Paris to tie the game at 2-2.
Also scoring in the pivotal second inning: Harley Minyard, Ashten Belvin, Marynna Mays and Parker. Ciara also doubled in the fourth and got home on a sacrifice RBI from Erica Noland for a 6-2 lead. Tupelo scored three in the fifth to make it 6-5 before a two-RBI triple for Mays scored Minyard and Belvin. (Both of them reached base on Tupelo miscues.)