BENTON — Eddie Woodall said it has been a long time coming for Sheridan softball to get back to the finals of the state tournament. He is exactly right.
The South’s No. 1 seed Lady Yellowjackets finally got over the drought to reach the state final with a 7-2 win over the East’s No. 2 seed Marion Lady Patriots in the 6A state semifinal held at the Benton Schools Athletic Complex on Saturday.
“We’ve worked hard for it and we have had our chances in the past,” Woodall said of making the finals. “We have faced great pitchers and things never really fell our way. (Saturday), these girls just wouldn’t be denied.”
Sheridan has reached the semifinals four times of the past five years and has reached the championship game for the first time since 1999. The Lady Yellowjackets will be looking for their first 6A title in softball, as it won the one-class fastpitch title back 15 years ago.
Sheridan (28-1) witnessed something it hasn’t seen all tournament long, being behind on the scoreboard, as Marion (16-10) struck first in the top half of the first inning.
Mabry Watson started the game off with a double to left field and was moved over a sacrifice bunt. After a groundout kept her at third, Hope Phipps hit an RBI groundball infield single to the shortstop, who had no chance to get Phipps out as Marion led 1-0.
However, the lead wouldn’t last long.
“I felt like we could score,” Woodall said. “We have been behind before and we just told them there is a lot of game left to be played.”
Sheridan opened its half of the inning with an infield single from Lauren Mitchell. A sacrifice bunt attempt by Sydney Bonner was rewarded by an error when the first baseman dropped the ball, putting two on with nobody out.
After a strikeout and a fielder’s choice, freshman Charlie Names deposited a three-run home run over the wall in left-center field to give Sheridan a 3-1 lead.
“She never shows any emotions,” Woodall said of Names. “She’s a freshman and she has great power. She has hit multiple home runs this year and she is silky-smooth swinging.
“If you watch her, you wouldn’t think she was freshman with the way she carries herself.”
Names wasn’t done.
In the third inning, she smacked her second three-run home run of the game over the left field wall and increased her team’s lead to 6-1.
“I’ve never done that before,” Names said of hitting two three-run jacks in a game. “It was amazing and was just a good feeling.”
Sheridan scored another run on an error by the third baseman in the sixth inning and Marion added an error-aided run in the top half of the seventh inning.
Sheridan started the game off in the circle with Morgan Burke, who got into a little bit of trouble in the second inning. With runners at the corners and one out, Woodall called Bonner from shortstop to take over.
“(Burke) has great stuff,” Woodall said. “In most games, I wouldn’t have pulled her because she wasn’t doing bad. But, when (Bonner) goes in, our girls think ‘that’s it for them’ and they kind of have that feeling.”
Bonner stepped in and responded with one pitch to get a 1-3 double play on a pop-up bunt to end the threat. Bonner earned the win as she finished the game with 5 2/3 innings pitched while allowing two hits and one run (unearned) with no walks and three strikeouts.
Names finished the day with an incredible six RBIs and two runs scored on a 2-for-3 performance and Mitchell finished 3 for 4 with a run scored to lead Sheridan. Marion had four players finish 1 for 3 with Phipps collecting the only RBI.
Sheridan will get a few days off before facing a familiar foe in the South’s No 2. seed Benton Lady Panthers, who knocked off East No 1. seed Russellville 2-1 on Saturday.
The two teams are set to battle for the 6A state title at 4:30 p.m. on Friday at Bogle Park in Fayetteville.