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PREP SOFTBALL: Tapp leads West to key conference win

by Harold McIlvain | May 4, 2021 at 7:00 a.m.

FORT SMITH -- Bentonville West shortstop Laynee Tapp wanted to make the most of her at-bat Monday in the third inning after cleanup hitter Ryen Rassi was issued an intentional base on balls.

Tapp did just that at Ted Skokos Field. She gave West a lead it never gave back with a two run-RBI double to spark a 3-1 victory against Fort Smith Southside in a key 6A-West Conference matchup.

"My main goal was to just hit the ball and make clean contact," Tapp said. "I wanted to make contact and put it in play. I got an outside pitch and drove it the other way. With Ryen being walked often, it puts me in a good position. I want to take advantage of those opportunities."

It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last time this season that Rassi, a Purdue signee, is issued an intentional base on balls. Rassi finished with three walks in the game with two being intentional. Cantrell said he has a lot of confidence in Tapp hitting fifth behind Rassi.

"She has done a good job for us hitting in that spot," West coach Anthony Cantrell said. "If you get walked, it is next person up. Ryen has done a good job of handling that as well. She takes her base and doesn't swing at pitches out of the zone."

Tapp's clutch hit drove home Marybeth Dyson and Sarah Cooper to take a 2-1 advantage in the top of the third for West (20-7, 10-3 6A-West).

That was all the support Cierra Cravens needed pitching for West. She picked up the win by pitching all seven innings, allowing three hits and six walks with three strikeouts. Southside stranded eight runners with her on the mound.

"She did a great job in the circle today," Cantrell said. "She did a good job pitching and fielding her spot. She has confidence in her teammates behind her. That is a big thing. She wants to pitch to contact."

West with the win secured the third seed from the 6A-West heading into the state tournament. The Lady Wolverines now have won five of their last six conference games also with three in a row.

"We feel confident and we are working together well," Tapp said. "We kind of feel unstoppable. If we continue to play as a team, I think we can continue to thrive. That has been our mindset."

Southside was able to strike first in the bottom of the second inning for a 1-0 advantage. Kaylee Reed picked up an RBI single to drive home Abby Estep.

West didn't take long to strike back in the top of the third with its two-run inning. The scoring chance started with back-to-back bunt singles from Dyson and Cooper to set the table.

"The short game is a big part of what we do," Cantrell said. "They don't have to bunt or slap it all the time either they can swing. That gives us options. Everybody has bought in. It puts pressure on defenses and we get to run a little bit."

West extended its lead out to 3-1 in the sixth inning. Cravens helped her own cause at the plate with a bunt single that allowed Caroline Wilhelm to score. Wilhelm started the frame with a leadoff double.

Cravens pitched a one-two-three inning to close things out in the seventh. She allowed just one base runner in the final two innings while picking up the win.

Southside (17-12, 9-5) had an opportunity at the No. 3 seed with a win against West. It didn't work out for them, as they will be the No. 4 seed heading into the state tournament.

But Southside coach Mark Reichert is still pleased with the way his team is playing down the stretch. The Lady Mavericks entered the game against West with four consecutive conference wins along with winning six of their last seven in league play.

"It's been exciting watching this young team improve and gain confidence," Reichert said. "The big thing is gaining confidence. We didn't start the year with a lot of experience. We have caught up to the speed of the game. We are growing up. We feel good heading into the state tournament. I'm proud of this team."

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