JACKSONVILLE — The White Hall Lady Bulldogs softball team’s quest for a third consecutive state title stayed alive Monday with a 5-2 win over the Greene County Tech Golden Eagles in the 5A semifinal round at Dupree Park.
“We feel pretty good,” White Hall head coach Terri Smith said. “We’re just happy to be going back.”
Senior Abby Weaver led the Lady Bulldogs with a phenomenal day at the plate, including two home runs and a solid game defensively.
“Abby is just Abby,” Smith said. “She’s good. She came in … and was sky high after she hit her first (home run). She’s a good leader.”
White Hall (22-5) jumped out to the early lead in the bottom of the first inning when Weaver hit a solo shot over the right field fence on a 0-2 pitch. Weaver said she was surprised she hit two home runs being in the leadoff spot.
“I wasn’t really expecting that,” Weaver said. “I wasn’t expecting to hit home runs. I was getting up there to just make contact. I mainly just wanted to start a rally. I just wanted our team to get off on the right foot.”
Sophomore starting pitcher Lauren Graves was solid on the mound as she finished with a complete game, allowing four hits and two runs (one earned) with two walks and three strikeouts.
“As long as we can get the ball on the ground, we have the defense to back it up,” Smith said. “We’ll take strikeouts and groundballs as long as we stay away from the walks.”
The Lady Bulldogs fell behind for the first time in the tournament in the top half of the second inning, but it wouldn’t last long.
Greene County Tech (19-11) started the inning off with Destry Mallard hitting a groundball to the third baseman, who made an errant throw to first base allowing Mallard to advance to second.
With one on and nobody out, Tiffany Woodsmall delivered an RBI double as she popped the ball over the left fielder’s head to tie the game. The Golden Eagles took their only lead of the game later in the inning with an RBI single from Jennifer Hendrix.
The two-time defending state champions would bounce back quickly from the 2-1 deficit. Karia Hall opened the bottom half of the inning with a pop fly and was rewarded when the ball popped out of the center fielder’s glove.
After back-to-back strikeouts, Weaver stepped up and ripped a double to right field and Kayla Reap extended the inning when she forced a walk to load the bases for the Lady Bulldogs.
Senior Madison Martin stepped in and hit a blooper over the second baseman’s head, allowing Hall and Weaver to score to give the Lady Bulldogs the lead back for good.
Graves settled in after the inning and faced the minimum for the next three innings while allowing just one hit the rest of the game.
In the fourth inning, Weaver came up to bat with one on and nobody out. Weaver proceeded to deposit another ball over the fence as the right fielder made a tremendous effort to catch the ball but tumbled over the fence.
“It was just pitches that I liked,” Weaver said of her second home run. “I was just trying to make contact. I wasn’t trying to show out or anything, I was just trying to get my team pumped up.”
Weaver, a Southern Arkansas signee, will attend her third straight state championship game.
“It’s very exciting,” Weaver said of going back to the championship game. “It’s a unique thing that not very many people get to do. I’m very thankful for the opportunity and I just feel like God has got us here.
“If we wouldn’t have the faith we have, the strength and the family-like team, then we wouldn’t have gotten this far. We can do anything and talk about anything and we can also be focused and do our jobs at the same time.”
Weaver finished the day 4 for 4 with three runs scored and three RBIs and Reap added a 2-for-3 performance to lead White Hall. Woodsmall led the Golden Eagles finishing 1 for 3 with a run scored and RBI.
White Hall moves on to face the Vilonia Lady Eagles, who defeated Paragould 4-2 on Monday, on Friday at 2 p.m. at Fayetteville’s Bogle Park for the 5A state title. Smith said her team will be ready and will be expecting a battle.
“Vilonia is going to be a tough team,” Smith said. “We know they are tough team. We’re going to come in there with guns blazing.”