SPORTS >>East sweeps in fastpitch
By JASON KING
FAYETTEVILLE — Not even a downpour most of the day Wednesday in Northwest Arkansas could stop All-Star week at the University of Arkansas, as the East and West softball teams faced off in a twin bill at the LadyBack Yard. The Leader coverage towns of Beebe, Searcy and Cabot were represented well during the two games with four of the top players in the state.
Jamie Sterrenberg of Cabot played at shortstop for most of the two games, with a brief stint at centerfield at the end of both contests. Beebe’s Sara Flenor was the East catcher for the second half of the opener and the first three innings of game two.
Harding Academy standouts Loghan Lowery and Taylor Pryor also took to the infield throughout the evening, with Pryor playing stints at third base, and Lowery pitching the final inning of game one before starting at second base for the finale.
The East All Stars swept West in both games Wednesday. They took game one decisively by a final score of 6-3, but had to hold off a late rally by the West in game two in order to preserve a narrow 2-1 decision.
The East started out as the visitors in game one, and wasted little time putting a runner on base. Lead off hitter Traci Ragan of Wynne singled, and Sterrenberg advanced her with a sacrifice bunt from the two-hole slot. Ragan was eventually picked off at second, and the game would go scoreless through one inning.
Sterrenberg’s second trip to the plate resulted in a pop up to first base. It would be her last at-bat in game one.
West scored first in the bottom of the second inning, but East would answer in the top of the third with a RBI double from Layne McGuirt of Wynne.
Pryor was effective with the bunt during both games, but was picked off trying to steal second on two different occasions. She led off the fifth inning with a sucessful bunt, but was picked off during the next batter’s turn.
Flenor also came away with a bunt in the top of the fifth inning. Woodlawn’s Brenna Gentry was in scoring position at third base, but the West defense was able to hold her at bay as Flenor made her way to first. Ragan served as courtesy runner for Flenor, and would eventually score on a passed ball to give East a 2-1 lead.
Pryor’s next bunt in the top of the sixth koaded the bases. Two runs scored on a fly to deep second, and Flenor followed that with a fly to left that scored another run, but Pryor was caught off base for the third out of the frame.
Lowery got in on the action in the bottom of the seventh. She threw the final inning for the East, forcing three flyouts to end the game with a 6-3 East win.
All four local entries played in the defensive infield for the first three innings of game two. Flenor caught a pop up for the first out of the second inning, and picked a runner off at second with a throw to Sterrenberg for the second out. Sterrenberg caught a fly for an out in the top of the third, and Pryor ended the frame with a throw to first after fielding a West hit.
The offensive highlights didn’t come as frequently in game two, but Sterrenberg did come in for one of the East’s two scores in the game after being walked in the bottom of the first inning. Ragan brought in the other run in the bottom of the first to set the final score, making the final six innings of the contest a defensive struggle.
Flenor enjoyed her time at the All-Star games, despite not-so-pleasant memories of her last two trips to the LadyBack Yard, in which her Lady Badgers lost state-title game heartbreakers earlier this season and her sophomore year in ‘05.
“It was a lot of fun; we’ve never had a lot of luck here in high school,” Flenor said. “We were here twice, and had a couple of heartbreakers. It was pretty hard to walk in here at first and think back to what happened then.”
Flenor, ever the competitior, was critical of her performance despite a solid showing behind the plate in both games.
“I didn’t think I did all that well, really,” Flenor said. “I usually throw out more people than I did tonight. There were a lot of good players on this team, and some really good pitchers, so I had fun catching.
Sterrenberg was also all smiles after the game. Like Flenor, however, she felt like she left a little on the field.
“I had lots of fun,” Sterrenberg said. “It was actually more fun than I thought it would be. I wished I had batted a little better, but I got to try some new positions. I’m not really a natural outfielder, so it was a good challenge to get out there and try it.”