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PREP SOFTBALL: Van Buren’s Caldwell feels love in win

by Leland Barclay Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette | June 24, 2023 at 2:30 a.m.
Van Buren pitcher Emberlin Caldwell, representing the West All-Star team, threw four hitless innings during Friday’s Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star softball game at Farris Field in Conway. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

CONWAY -- Van Buren's Emberlin Caldwell set the stage for a West softball sweep Friday afternoon.

Caldwell threw four hitless innings in the opener of the Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star softball doubleheader, pitching the West to a 1-0 win over the East at Farris Field at the University of Central Arkansas.

The West completed the sweep with a 6-2 win in the nightcap.

Caldwell threw 34 of her 45 pitches for strikes, allowed no hits and struck out 6 of the 13 batters she faced, working effectively with Mansfield catcher Brooklyn Adams.

"I felt good," Caldwell said. "Me and Brook Adams had a really good warmup. I felt really confident like I usually do."

Caldwell finished her record-breaking career with Van Buren with one last victory on the mound as well the game's Most Valuable Player award.

"That's so awesome and such a good feeling," Caldwell said. "Even though it's with a different group of girls, I still feel the love."

Kamryn Uher of Farmington closed out the shutout for the West with three scoreless innings, scattering three hits.

"That is fun," said Candi Bailey, the West head coach from Springdale Har-Ber. "That was a super good game. It's fun just to see the kids come out here and play. It's a really competitive game."

Bailey and East assistant coach Courtney McHenry from Taylor went to high school together at Magnolia and played travel ball growing up.

"She was my first assistant coach," Bailey said. "We're competitive. There's going to be some trash talking."

The West scored the only run it needed in the third inning.

Ireland Cooper of Greenwood reached on a perfect bunt with one out and scored on a double down the third-base line by Benton's Addison Davis.

Davis, a left-handed hitter, wasn't sure if the hit was fair when it came off the bat.

"I didn't and neither did my coaches, but it worked," she said. "I'm glad Ireland got on base to let me hit her in"

Davis, the West Outstanding Player, said she noticed the East third baseman creeping in before the pitch.

"I saw she was scooting up a little bit, so I wanted to knock one past her," Davis said. "I'm really glad one of my last at-bats scored the winning run. That was really cool."

In the second game, the West scored three runs in the third inning and two more in the fourth inning for a 5-0 lead.

Courtesy runner Kailynn Garis of Nemo Vista scored on a passed ball, and Abbi Baker of Wonderview doubled home Mountain Home's Emma Crabb and Brooke Beyer of Har-Ber to cap the third inning.

In the fourth, Garis tripled to score Greenland's Samantha Powell along with Cooper.

The East scored in the fifth inning with Heather Compton of Little Rock Central scoring on a fielder's choice grounder by KiKi Pickens of Beebe.

The West added another run in the sixth inning with Madison Pratt of Har-Ber singling home Valley Springs' Aidan Gorton, who tripled with two outs.

The East also added a final run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Kelsey Baker of Marion doubled and scored on a single by Sarah Davis of Harding Academy.

Chloe Hillian of Prairie Grove earned the win for the West with four scoreless innings, allowing just a single and striking out seven.

Sofia King of Conway was named the East Outstanding Player. King had a single in the opener and a double in the second game.

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