CONWAY — Bentonville pitcher Morgan Vaughan took the loss in her team’s 2-1 defeat against North Little Rock in the 7A state softball championship game on May 24 in Fayetteville.
Exactly one month later, Vaughan picked up the victory in the West squad’s 4-1 win over the East in Game 1 of the Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star doubleheader Tuesday at Farris Field in Conway.
“It meant a lot,” Vaughan said of getting to play in the games. “Not everybody gets to do something like this, so it means a lot.
“You’ll never forget it.”
Vaughan, who pitched in every one of Bentonville’s games during the high school season, allowed just one runner to reach in her three innings. A walk to Madison Weaver of Marion in the third inning was the only thing keeping her from a perfect outing. Vaughan still faced the minimum, though, as Weaver’s courtesy runner Madison Shaw of Conway was thrown out attempting to steal second base while Texarkana’s Kaitlyn Eaves threw a perfect strike to Sheridan’s Hunter Clark for the out.
In Game 1, Vaughan finished 1 for 2 at the dish. She also had a hit in her only plate appearance in Game 2, which the West won 3-1.
In the fall, Vaughan and her Bentonville teammate Alicia Lowery will be joining Clark at Arkansas Tech.
“It’s an extreme honor,” Clark, who finished a combined 2 for 3, said of playing in the games. “They only picked like three girls from 6A, so it was a blast. I wish (Sheridan teammate) Sydney (Bonner) could have been here, but she’s in New York.
“It was such an honor and blast, such a great time that I’ll remember forever.”
With Bonner and White Hall’s Abby Weaver picked but unable to attend Tuesday’s games, Woodlawn’s Megan Howard was the only local player besides Clark who got to play.
“It means that even though I’m from a little-bitty town and a little-bitty school that I can still come out and represent and keep up with the big dogs,” Howard said of getting to play in the games despite coming from a 2A school. “And still play on the same level even though I might not be from such a big school with such a big talent pool.”
Despite going 0 for 3 on Tuesday, Howard, who helped Woodlawn reach the 2A state semifinals, enjoyed the entire all-star week experience.
“It was really fun to meet some of the best players in Arkansas,” she said. “… It’s been a short time, but I’ve gotten to know a lot of these girls really well.
“So they mean a lot to me even though I haven’t known them that long.”
Kevin Sullivan, who coached Vilonia to the 5A title game against White Hall, led the West squad to the pair of wins. He said it was a real honor to be picked by his peers to coach in the all-star games.
“To me that’s the highest honor you can get from your peers,” Sullivan said. “To be picked to coach in something like this is one of those things that I think is on every coaches’ bucket list. To win a state title, to coach in an all-star game (and) to speak at a coaching clinic, those are the kind of things that are great honors when you’re voted on and get to do stuff like this.
“So this is a dream come true.”
Clark, who was part of the Sheridan team that lost in the 6A final to Benton, said she felt the same way about getting to play in the games.
“It’s really cool because this is the best of the best,” she said. “It’s pretty much the best seniors around, so it was really cool to be a part of it.
“It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”