FAYETTEVILLE — The dynasty is complete for the White Hall softball team, as the Lady Bulldogs won their third straight 5A state championship with a 7-3 win over the Vilonia Lady Eagles on Friday afternoon at the University of Arkansas’ Bogle Park.
“It doesn’t happen very often, so it is hard to believe,” White Hall head coach Terri Smith said.
Smith, however, downplayed any mention of a dynasty.
“I don’t want to say that,” Smith said. “I don’t want to jinx us because I want to be back next year and do it again.”
Sophomore Lauren Graves pitched a complete game and was a triple away from hitting for the cycle at the plate. She finished 3 for 4 with three RBIs and two runs scored.
“It always feels good to get a couple of hits and doing what I can for my team,” Graves said.
Graves hit a two-run home run in the top of the first inning to get things rolling for White Hall. She also hit an RBI single in the fourth, and a double and a run scored in the top of the sixth.
“She stepped up like she should,” Smith said. “She is a good ball player.”
Graves allowed just three runs on seven hits with five strikeouts and two walks. She also hit two batters.
“As a sophomore, I was a little timid,” Graves said. “But I’ve played this game for many years.
“But I love it and I just had to believe in what I can do.”
Vilonia scored a run in the bottom of the second to get within one run and tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the third.
The Lady Eagles led off the third loading the bases. Graves got the next two outs on a pop-out and a strikeout, before giving up a bases-loaded walk to Kristen Wade to tie the game.
“When they run into trouble, we try to let them work through it,” Smith said. “To let them know we have some confidence in them.”
White Hall answered with a two-run inning in the fourth. Summer Henderson and Abby Weaver led off the inning with a pair of infield hits and a walk to Kayla Reap loaded the bases for the Lady Bulldogs.
A walk to senior Maddie Martin – a Williams Baptist College signee – forced in the go-ahead run as White Hall took a 3-2 lead. Graves then singled to plate Weaver.
Weaver, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player, finished Friday with a hit, two walks and two runs scored.
“This is it, this is my last game,” Weaver said. “(Winning a state championship) was exciting the other times, but I feel like this one was more personal.”
Weaver said she was proud of Graves’ performance.
“She did so good,” Weaver said. “She came out swinging and she hit that one out. I felt like it got us going.”
An RBI single by Wade in the bottom of the fifth got Vilonia within one run at 4-3. White Hall added an insurance run in the top of the sixth thanks to an RBI triple by Ciara Linker – her only hit of the game.
“Those runs helped a lot,” Smith said.
White Hall scored two more runs in the top of the seventh. The Lady Bulldogs left 12 runners on the base in Friday’s win.
Junior Karia Hall finished the day with three hits including a double. Kayla Reap had one hit and a run scored and Emily Law had a double and scored a run.
For Vilonia, Camryn Williams led the team with two hits and a run scored. Wade finished 1 for 2 with two RBIs.
“Since I’ve only been here two years, it feels pretty awesome to come out and win one for my team,” Graves said.