BENTON -- Two title reigns collided at the Benton Athletic Complex on Monday.
The Sheridan Yellowjackets advanced to their fourth consecutive state championship softball game with a 3-1 victory over the Greenbrier Lady Panthers.
Sheridan (26-4) had won the past three Class 6A state softball championships. Greenbrier (24-7) was the defending Class 5A champion. As a result of a realignment, Sheridan shifted to Class 5A before this season.
It was the first game this year between the champions.
"We were concerned about Greenbrier, but it was a good kind of concern," Sheridan Coach Tamara Strawn said. "It was nerves. When you haven't played them all year, it's kind of an unknown, but we knew they were good and that it would be a good game.
"Our girls have a culture of championships. Their energy, their camaraderie, it's just awesome to be a part of."
Sheridan will play Greenwood in the Class 5A final in Fayetteville this weekend.
Sheridan struck first with a leadoff home run by junior catcher Carley Strawn in the top of the second inning.
In the bottom of the third inning, Sheridan strung together five consecutive singles. Junior shortstop Savannah Sanford started the run of hits but was thrown out at third by Greenbrier junior pitcher Madeline Garrett. With the bases loaded, junior right fielder Jordan Flora singled to knock in junior center fielder Kassidy Upchurch from third to give Sheridan a 2-0 lead.
"We're so confident now," Tamara Strawn said. "There are so many expectations, but they don't let that bother them. They come out here to have fun and play. You can just tell every one of them loves the sport on the field and in the dugout. They're all in it together."
Greenbrier junior center fielder Makayla Seyller led off the fourth inning with a walk against Sheridan starting pitcher Kaitlyn Howard. She scored on a two-out double by junior pitcher Peyton Greiner to give Greenbrier its only run.
Sheridan senior third baseman Bailee Hall led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a single and scored on a two-out single by Upchurch to complete the scoring.
Howard gave up 1 run on 2 hits through 4 innings and struck out 1. She was relieved in the fifth inning by junior Bailee Bibb, who allowed two base runners on a hit and a walk and struck out four in three innings.
"Bailee's focused," Strawn said. "She's got some speed and movement. She does a great job."
"We made a nice little run late in the season," Greenbrier Coach Brian Butler said. "I knew we had a tough hill to climb, but we put ourselves in the right spots. If we can just make a couple of plays, who knows what happens."
GREENWOOD 4, BENTON 0
Junior pitcher Haven Clements threw a four-hit shutout to lead Greenwood over Benton Panthers and into the Class 5A state softball championship game.
"She just throws strikes for us, keeps them off balance," Greenwood Coach Ronnie Sockey said of Clements. "We have an outstanding defense. Three good outfielders and middle infielders. Defense is what's got it done for us. That, and timely hitting."
Greenwood (25-5) will play Sheridan in the Class 5A championship game this weekend in Fayetteville.
"We know who we got," Sockey said. "We're ready for them."
Greenwood was held to one hit through the first three innings by sophomore pitcher Tuesday Melton, but junior center fielder Emma McCorkle led off the fourth with a bunt single. With two outs, McCorkle scored on a double by senior third baseman Mariah Hamilton, who scored along with sophomore shortstop Ally Sockey on a double by junior catcher Paxtyn Hayes.
Hamilton gave Greenwood a 4-0 lead with a sixth-inning home run.
Benton (24-7) hit eight deep flyballs, each caught by either junior left fielder Kya Schmidt, McCorkle or junior right fielder Rheding Wagoner.
"I thought their outfielders made some great plays on a couple of balls that could have landed differently," Benton Coach Heidi Cox said. "We hit her, but they were there at the right place at the right time. They just had more timely hits than we did."
Sheridan’s Kaitlyn Howard pitches against Beebe in the Class 5A state softball tournament Friday in Benton. Sheridan will play Greenwood at 12:30 p.m. Friday in the state championship.
Sports on 05/14/2019
Print Headline: Sheridan last champion left standing in Class 5A