WHITE HALL — The White Hall Lady Bulldogs will try to accomplish a nearly impossible task this afternoon when they try to win their third straight 5A state championship in Fayetteville.
“If they go out and play their game, and hit like they’ve been hitting all season, we will give them a run for their money anyways,” White Hall head coach Terri Smith said.
White Hall (22-5) punched its ticket to the state championship on Monday with a win over Greene County Tech in the semifinals in Jacksonville. The Lady Bulldogs will face Vilonia (24-6) today at 2 p.m. at Bogle Park on the campus of the University of Arkansas.
“I think it is a really unique opportunity,” White Hall senior Abby Weaver said. “Not many people can go back and do it a third time.
“And I feel like, we are very blessed to have gotten this far. It is an honor to be able to go back and go with these girls. Because they are such a special group of girls.”
Weaver, a Southern Arkansas signee, is playing in her third straight state championship. On Monday, she finished with four hits, including two home runs and three RBIs.
Going into this season, White Hall knew it would have some mighty big shoes to fill with the loss of graduating players Rachel Box and Sydnee Clark — who won Southeast Arkansas Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year honors last summer.
But Weaver believes the team has responded well to the challenge.
“From your freshman year, you always had the person to look up to,” Weaver said. “You always had that senior.
“…But now it is a little different because we are the seniors the girls are looking up to. I feel like we did well and we knew what position we had to take and being leaders on the field.
“We adjusted well and I think we have been doing fine.”
On Monday, sophomore Lauren Graves led the Lady Bulldogs to a semifinal win in the circle.
“I’ve been playing softball my whole life,” Graves said. “So I’ve felt pressure before. Honestly, I’m just going to do the best I can to lead my team.”
Graves said she is excited for the three-peat opportunity.
“I know my teammates have been absolutely amazing and we definitely have a very talented group,” Graves said. “And as a sophomore I look up to them.
“We deserve to be back.”
In April, tornadoes ripped through parts of Vilonia and Mayflower. And now the Lady Eagles have made it to the state championship, which makes for a possible happy ending if they win, but the Lady Bulldogs said they would not just lay down.
“I know what happened was awful and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy,” Weaver said. “But they worked as hard as we did to get there. We are going to give it everything we have.
“I can tell both teams want the same thing and it is going to be a good game.”
In an effort to give back to some of the victims of the tornadoes — including two Vilonia players whose houses were completely destroyed — Smith and the White Hall softball team brought care packages to the state tournament.
“We gathered stuff up and took it to them,” Smith said. “… They mostly included some essentials but each of them had about 200 dollars in them as well.”
Smith said afterward, members of the Vilonia team came over and thanked the Lady Bulldogs for their gifts.
Smith said Little Rock TV station KATV is planning on following Vilonia while it makes its run for a state title.
“As long as we get a fair shake in the game,” Smith said. “It may be to our advantage that the focus is not on us.”
“We are going to go in there and give it everything we have,” Weaver said. “We aren’t going to lay down and take it easy.”