Leader Blues

Friday, May 01, 2009

SPORTS >> Beebe cruises past Paragould into quarters

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Neither injury nor rust could slow down the Beebe Lady Badgers in the first round of the 5A state tournament on Friday afternoon.

The Lady Badgers had not played in more than a week, but smacked the ball around for 10 hits in a 9-2 cruise past Paragould at Sherwood Parks.

“With all the time off, we’ve been doing a lot of drills, getting out some old-school stuff,” said Beebe coach Eric Chambers, in his first season at Beebe. “We were trying to get them to focus on driving the ball and it paid off today.”

But it wasn’t just offense for Beebe on Friday. The Lady Badgers got a great pitching performance from Megan Harris, who had not thrown in 10 days after suffering an injury. And their defense was nearly perfect. None was better than shortstop Nikki King, who flawlessly fielded all five grounders hit to her, including a magnificent backhand snag of a hard grounder to take away a single in the seventh.

“Nikki had fluid taken off her knee yesterday,” Chambers said. “She’s really a player. For her and Megan to come out and play the way they did after their injuries was pretty amazing. It showed they’ve got a lot of heart.”

Harris struck out eight, walked three and hit two others. She allowed only three hits and one earned run.

The Lady Badgers (18-7) take on the Hope-Greenbrier winner today at noon in the quarterfinals.

Beebe wasted little time jumping on the fourth-seeded Lady Rams, scoring two in the first. After King drew a leadoff walk, catcher Amanda Wheeler laid down the first of her two sacrifice bunts in the game. Ally Wallace then ripped an RBI double to the fence in right. One out later, Jordan Bass lined a 1-1 pitch down the line in left for another RBI double and a 2-0 lead.

Paragould got one of those back with two outs in the second on a double and an error in left field. It was Beebe’s lone miscue of the game, while the Lady Rams committed four errors.

King started off the Beebe third by beating out a bunt single, went to second on Wheeler’s sacrifice and came in on a pair of wild pitches to make it 3-1.

“Amanda wants to hit the ball like everyone else, but she knows her job,” Chambers said of Wheeler’s bunting. “Most of these games are decided by one run so we need her to do that.”

Wheeler gunned down a would-be base stealer in the fourth and Beebe broke open the game with a six-run bottom half of the inning, sending 10 to the plate and collecting five hits. Bass singled and Bethany Flenor walked. Shelbie Thomas lined an RBI single to left. Another run came in when the Paragould pitcher threw wild to first on Shelbie Tozer’s sacrifice bunt.

Kayla Jackson brought home Thomas with a ground out to first before King blooped a double over the first baseman’s head to make it 7-1. Wheeler’s grounder to short moved King to third and Wallace beat out an infield single to score King. Wallace scored when the Lady Ram center fielder mishandled Megan Harris’ line drive single.

From there, it was just a matter of cruising in. Harris pitched around a leadoff hit batter in the fifth. She hit another batter in the sixth and a pair of singles chased home Paragould’s only other run to set the final margin.

“I’m excited about this team,” Chambers said. “(Last year’s coach Terry Flenor) lost six that had played here forever. We’ve got three seniors and three juniors, but mostly sophomores. For them to do what they’ve done this year, I’m real proud of them.”

King, Wallace, Bass and Megan Harris had two hits each.