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Softball: Bentonville, North Little Rock cruise into title-game rematch

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Photographs by Ben Goff

Bentonville players celebrate Saturday after defeating Cabot 10-0 in the semiÿnals of the Class 7A state tournament in Fayetteville, The Lady Tigers advanced to face North Little Rock in a rematch of last year’s state championship game.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Bentonville played Saturday like a team eager to defend its state championship.

Bentonville’s Payton Wildeman rounds the bases after her home run in the Lady Tigers’ 10-0 victory over Cabot in the Class 7A softball semifinals Satu...

The Lady Tigers earned that opportunity after dominating Cabot 10-0 in six innings in the semifinals of the Class 7A state tournament at Asbell Park.

The victory set up a rematch from last year's championship game with North Little Rock, which beat Bryant 19-9 in the other semifinal game Saturday.

Bentonville defeated North Little Rock 12-1 in five innings last spring at Bogle Park to win the state championship.

Payton Wildeman hit two home runs and and had a run-scoring single to give Bentonville (29-1) a 7-0 lead after four innings. Her production was more than enough for senior pitcher Maddy Prough (22-1), who pitched a three-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts.

Prough returned to form after walking seven batters in an 11-6 victory over Bentonville West on Friday. Prough had allowed only 12 walks all season prior to the game.

"She did what she was supposed to do to stay on top of hitters and we were able to help her offensively," Bentonville Coach Kent Early said.

Bentonville scored four runs in the first inning and two more in the second for a 6-0 lead. Jordan Gartman had two doubles and a single while Wildeman, the cleanup hitter, had three hits and led the Lady Tigers with four RBI.

Gartman and Morgan Nelson had doubles in the sixth inning when Bentonville ended the game on the 10-run mercy rule. Cabot (25-6) put more than one batter on base only in the fifth inning with a walk and single by Rylie Hamilton.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK 17,

BRYANT 9

North Little Rock slugged its way toward a fifth consecutive appearance in the state championship game and a title-game rematch with Bentonville.

Six of North Little Rock's 18 hits came from No. 9 hitter Anna Beaver and leadoff batter Reagan Sperling.

Beaver had three hits, including a three-run home run in the fifth inning to put North Little Rock ahead 11-6. Freshman Katelynn McMahan added her third home run of the tournament, a three-run blast to increase the lead to 17-9 in the seventh.

"Everybody in the lineup stepped up, from top to bottom," North Little Rock Coach Jason Houle said.

North Little Rock (20-6-1) poured it on against Bryant (27-5) after falling behind 3-0 and 6-4. The Lady Charging Wildcats scored at least three runs in four of the seven innings.

The hot bats enabled North Little Rock to overcome six errors in the game.

Sarah Evans hit a three-run home run to give Bryant an earlier 3-0 lead. North Little Rock went ahead 4-3 before Raven Loveless put Bryant back in front with a two-run single in the third.

The Charging Wildcats then pulled away and led for good with seven consecutive runs. Evans had a home run, double, and single for Bryant, which had 14 hits and made two errors.

Sports on 05/14/2017

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