Early earns 600th softball victory

MONTICELLO – A five-run fourth inning was enough for Arkansas-Monticello to mercy rule Washburn University of Kansas 11-3 in the second game of the UAM Hampton Inn Classic.

The win over Washburn gave UAM coach Alvy Early his 600th career victory. Now in his 17th year at the helm of the UAM program, the reigning GAC Coach of the Year has a 600-291-2 overall record.

After giving up two-run home run in the top of the fourth, Early huddled his team together in front of the dugout to remind them how easily a game can get out of hand.

“At that particular moment, I thought we were on cruise mode,” Early said. “Sailing along 6-1, thinking everything is OK.

“I reminded them a little bit that it is not ever till that final out. A ball you don’t catch and a home run and [Washburn] was right back in it.”

Well, it must of light a fire under the Cotton Blossoms as they scored five in the bottom half of the inning, thanks to a grand slam from Channing Tharpe.

With one out, Summer Huddleston hit a single and Sara Matthews followed with a walk. Beth Johnson singled to load the bases for UAM.

A walk to Brittany Eitel forced in a run.

That’s when Tharpe hit a grand slam to right field to give the Cotton Blossoms an 11-3 lead.

Early said going into the inning he was trying to decide if he would need to bring in a new pitcher as the lead had been cut to 6-3. But after the walk had forced in a run, he thought to himself, ‘A home run here and three outs in the top half and we can win this game.’

“As big as it was for the team, it was big for her,” Early said. “She had been struggling at the plate mentally a little bit.

“[Tharpe] is one of those that is really hard on herself when she doesn’t come through with runners in scoring positions.

“So I was glad to see her do that.”

Tharpe finished the game 2 for 3 with four RBIs and two runs scored.

In the top of the fifth inning, sophomore pitcher Katie Slaughter got three outs on three pitches to close out the game.

Slaughter pitched five innings and allowed three runs (all earned) on five hits with no walks and two strikeouts.

UAM scored four runs in the second and two in the first. Freshman Jennie Johnson finished the game 2 for 3 with one RBI. Matthews was 1 for 2 with a run scored, a walk and two RBIs.

In the first game, UAM defeated Cameron University 3-0 thanks to senior pitcher Randy Perry, who scattered five hits and allowed just one walk with four strikeouts.

Perry, who missed the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL, also finished the game 2 of 3 with a double.

UAM scored two runs in the third inning to take a 2-0 lead.