Above, White Hall teammates celebrate after beating Vilonia 5-2 in the 5A state softball championship Saturday at Bogle Park in Fayetteville. Below, Abby Weaver sheads tears of joy as she hugs Haley Baugh. (Pine Bluff Commercial/Ralph Fitzgerald)
FAYETTEVILLE — They’re going to have to build a bigger trophy case at White Hall.
The Lady Bulldogs captured the first state softball championship in program history Saturday afternoon at Bogle Park, defeating Vilonia 5-2 to capture the Class 6A state title. The victory came a day after White Hall’s baseball team won the state baseball championship.
“It’s unreal,” said right fielder Haley Baugh, the tournament’s most valuable player. “We worked so hard for this. We stayed focused even with our guys winning the championship. We stayed level-headed and confident.”
The Lady Bulldogs (26-8) had watched the baseball team win the state title Friday at Baum Stadium. They celebrated when it happened, but never lost sight of their goal of winning a championship of their own.
White Hall coach Terri Smith praised her players’ poise, noting that they took a professional approach in the days leading up to their game against Vilonia (23-9).
“I didn’t have to tell them to go to bed, I didn’t have to tell them to not run up and down the hall (in the hotel),” Smith said. “They were ready, because they wanted to come and win. The boys won yesterday, and they were like, ‘We’ve got to do the same.’”
The Lady Bulldogs jumped on the Lady Eagles for an early run. Abby Weaver led off the bottom of the first with a walk, was sacrificed to second by Karia Hall and scored on a two-out single by Baugh.
The Lady Bulldogs gave that run right back in the second, though. Vilonia’s Ashley Lyons led off with a bloop single, taking second when Baugh misplayed the ball. Lyons advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, and wound up evening the game when she scored on a passed ball.
Vilonia committed an error of its own in the bottom of the second. Center fielder Miah Williams misplayed a ball hit by Jessica Ashcraft, allowing Kayla Reap to score from second with two outs and putting White Hall ahead 2-1.
The Lady Bulldogs never relinquished the lead after that. They made it 3-1 in the fourth, when Baugh doubled and scored on an RBI groundout by Reap. Baugh went 2 for 3 with a run scored and an RBI.
The whole team showed a proclivity for putting the bat on the ball, as White Hall did not strike out a single time in the game.
“I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t care if we only get one run, every time we come up, let’s get a run,’” Smith said. “‘Every time you come up with somebody on base, push them around. Don’t leave them there.’ They’re an awesome group of girls.”
White Hall’s lead became a comfortable one in the fifth inning. Hall’s two-out triple to right field scored Weaver, and Hall came home when Box followed with a run-scoring single.
Box’s single knocked Vilonia starter Whitney Price out of the game.
Price took the loss, giving up 5 runs, 4 earned, on 5 hits and 2 walks and 4 strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings.
Sydnee Clark, White Hall’s pitcher, was solid the whole game. The junior, who missed last year’s state tournament with an ankle injury, went the distance, giving up 2 runs on 7 hits.
Catherine Lloyd’s solo home run in the seventh inning accounted for the game’s final run. Clark then retired the next two batters for the victory.
“It was an amazing performance,” Smith said. “She worked so hard after getting injured last year to come back. It’s just amazing.”
Weaver, the Lady Bulldogs’ second baseman, made the play of the game in the sixth. After Vilonia had drawn a leadoff walk, Whitney Wade smashed a grounder for what looked like a potential hit.
But Weaver sprinted to her right, snagged the ball in full stride, stepped on second base and then rifled the ball to first, turning a 4-3 double play.
“We outhit them, they just had the key hits when they had runners on in scoring position,” Vilonia coach Calvin Robinette said. “That’s the sign of a good team. We left too many runners on base, and they have a good pitcher in Sydnee Clark.”
Vilonia 010 000 1 — 2 7 1
White Hall 110 120 x — 5 6 1
Price, Netherlain (5) and Gray; Clark and Martin. W — Clark, L — Price.
HR — Lloyd (V).