NASHVILLE -- Not even a bum shoulder could keep Bailey Buffington from hurling Bauxite back into the state championship game.
The senior pitched seven innings after suffering a scary fall in the bottom of the first to carry the Lady Miners to a 4-1 victory over Nashville in the semifinals of the Class 4A state softball tournament on a steamy Saturday afternoon at the Parks and Recreation Softball Complex.
"She's a warrior," Bauxite Coach Sara Tew said of Buffington. "That kid has battled through everything. She's as tough as they come, and I can't say enough about her. She really showed a lot a grit."
Cheyenne Harris had three hits and an RBI, and Taylor Sledd added a two-run home run for Bauxite (34-2), which ran its winning streak to 25 games and will make an appearance in the state final for the first time since 2015. The Lady Miners also knocked off Nashville in the semifinals that year as well, but Bauxite's chances of making a trip to Fayetteville took a hit early when its ace fell after running out a grounder in the bottom of the first.
Buffington was hustling down the first-base line when she appeared to trip over the base. She stayed down for several minutes before finally getting up. The play resulted in the third out for Bauxite, which meant Buffington either had to be replaced or return to the mound.
"I guess she just kind of hit the base wrong," Tew said. "When she went down, she fell on her shoulder. But she knew she had to pitch. She knew if we were going to win, she had to pitch.
"She was going to gut it out no matter what."
Buffington gave up 5 hits and struck out 3, and she also had an RBI double in the fourth to give the Lady Miners their three-run cushion.
Nashville made things tough on Bauxite and had chances to tack on runs, particularly in the fourth. The Scrapperettes grabbed a 1-0 lead on an RBI triple from Madi Miller, but Buffington retired the next three batters to quell the rally.
The Lady Miners responded in the bottom half of the inning with three runs on five hits, including Sledd's two-run home run that easily cleared the left-center-field wall. Harris added an RBI single four batters later.
A leadoff double from Brookelyen Cox put Nashville back in business in the top of the fifth, but she was left stranded on third. Buffington added her run-scoring hit in the bottom of the frame, then gave up just one other hit the rest of the way.
Five players had hits for Nashville (27-7), which lost to Bauxite for the third time this season.
"These seniors got a chance to play for a title when they were freshmen," Tew said. "Now, for them to play for a championship again as seniors ... this is big. They really deserve it."
POTTSVILLE 9, GRAVETTE 3
Kira Harrel went 3 for 5, Skylar Campbell had 3 RBI and Sadie Saul belted a home run during a six-run fifth inning for Pottsville (28-3), which will get a chance to defend its state championship after blowing past Gravette.
Pottsville will face Bauxite for the championship.
Campbell, Saul, Abbie Cain, Sophia Hampton and Sydney Flippo all had two hits apiece for the Lady Apaches, who jumped out to 9-0 lead and never looked back. Pottsville finished the game with 15 hits. Campbell also was the winning pitcher after allowing 3 runs on 7 hits while recording 4 strikeouts.
Gabbi Scott was 3 for 4 for Gravette (23-7). Bailey Elmore took the loss despite striking out nine.
Sports on 05/13/2018
Print Headline: Bauxite's Buffington picks herself, team up