CABOT -- Three meetings between Bentonville High and Bentonville West just weren't enough this spring.
Northwest Arkansas' newest rivalry has been extended by one more game, and this meeting will be for the Class 7A state softball championship after the two teams earned semifinal victories Saturday afternoon. Bentonville (29-3) moved on first as the Lady Tigers claimed a 5-1 victory over Cabot, then West (25-6) punched its ticket for its first final in any sport by holding on for a 3-2 victory over Bryant.
"It's awesome," West coach Anthony Cantrell said. "I'm just proud of our kids. We had a little scare there, but we got out of it. Now we get to go play in the last game of the year. That's what you want to do."
The date and time for that game is still to be announced, but the location may be up in the air as well.
The game -- as well as the state champion games for the other six classifications -- is scheduled to be played at Bogle Park, but it may have to be moved if Arkansas' softball team becomes an NCAA regional host. If it happens, then the Arkansas Activities Association will meet Monday to discuss an alternate site.
Bentonville High 5, Cabot 1
Once Bentonville took the air from under the softball Saturday afternoon, the Lady Tigers took the wind out of Cabot's sails.
Morgan Nelson's line-drive single drove in Keelah Griffith with the go-ahead run, and McKenzie Vaughan followed with a two-run home run as Bentonville advanced to the Class 7A state championship with a 5-1 victory at Panther Field.
It's the Lady Tigers' fourth straight trip to the title game and moves them one step closer to their third consecutive title.
"We have one more game, and no game is ever easy," Bentonville coach Kent Early said. "We can't take anything for granted. It's a credit to these kids getting back there, and it isn't easy in a single-elimination tournament."
Keelah Griffith, who answered Cabot's run in the top of the second with a solo home run -- her sixth of the season -- to tie the game, delivered a line-drive single to right-center with one out in the fourth, went to second on an error and took third on a wild pitch. Nelson then delivered another single in almost the same spot to drive in Griffith and give Bentonville (29-3) a 2-1 lead.
Many of the Lady Tigers were caught hitting pop flies into a wind blowing in from left field, but that wasn't the case with Vaughan. The freshman third baseman drilled a line drive that screamed over the left-field fence for her 12th home run of the season and a 4-1 lead, then Tymber Riley drove in Bentonville's final run with a bases-loaded single.
"That wind was something we did address," Early said. "We knew how Cabot was going to pitch us, so we needed to cut our swings and stay on top of the ball more to get those line drives.
"McKenzie has tremendous power and all she has to do is get the bat head out in front, and she's got it."
Cailey Cochran (22-2) went the distance in the circle and finished with a four-hitter despite a rocky second inning. Cabot (23-7) had the bases loaded with one out when Kaitlyn Campbell was hit by a pitch and forced in a run, but Cochran avoided further damage when she struck out the next two batters.
Spears and Gamewell; Cochran and Cornell. W-Cochran, 22-2. L-Spears. Sv-None. HRs-Bentonville, Griffith (6), Vaughan (12).
Bentonville West 3, Bryant 2
Alyssa Cordell contributed to West's first two runs as the Lady Wolverines held off Bryant's late charge and advanced to the championship game.
West started the third inning with three straight singles, and Cordell was on third when Bryant tried to pick off Jazmine Dodd at second. Cordell took off for home when the ball squirted away and was tagged out, but the umpires then huddled and ruled interference on Bryant catcher Meagan Chism, allowing Cordell to score the first run.
The Lady Wolverines had a chance to add to their lead when Honesty Holt singled to right, but the umpires ruled Dodd out for failure to touch third base before coming home.
"Alyssa made a decision and got in there," Cantrell said. "I thought the catcher was up the line and on the chalk. I thought they made the right call. Then I asked Jazmine if she had missed third base, and she did."
Cordell made it a 2-0 game an inning later when Cordell singled and drove in Endya Moler, who had hit a leadoff single. Ryen Rassi then belted a home run over the center-field fence in the fifth and added to West's lead.
Bryant (28-5), which took a gamble with its running game and two runners thrown out in the first, finally scored in the fifth when Isabella Herring tripled past a diving Rassi in left field and came home on Regan Ryan's single. The Lady Hornets then made things interesting in the seventh when Ryan and Sarah Evans singled and Chism doubled off Alex McManus, who relieved starting pitcher Emma Wood to start the inning and was seeing her first action of the season after an injury.
McManus then struck out Raven Loveless, then she fielded Brooklyn Trammell's grounder and threw to first to end the game.
"We were coming through the lineup for the fourth time," Cantrell said of his pitching switch. "Alex has worked to get herself to get back healthy, and I felt like it was the time to give it a shot if we were going to give it.
"We got through it. We survived and advanced."
Wood, McManus (7) and Sneed; Loveless and Chism. W-Wood. L-Loveless. Sv-McManus. HR-West, Rassi.
Preps Basketball on 05/13/2018
Print Headline: Bentonville, West advance for fourth showdown