FARMINGTON -- Appearing in its last Class 5A state softball tournament for the forseeable future, Farmington wants to win it all.
The Lady Cardinals, who will return to 4A competition next season, are in position to do just that by virtue of an 8-3 defeat of De Queen in Saturday's State 5A semifinal at Harrison.
There were some anxious moments early. De Queen scored 3 runs in the bottom of the first inning to wipe out a 1-0 Farmington lead. Farmngton starter Paige Devecsery issued one of 4 walks, and an error put another runner on base. De Queen's Madison Runnels took full advantage by hitting a 3-run homer off Devecsery, who allowed just 4 other hits.
Runnels' homer gave De Queen a 3-1 lead after one inning of play, but Farmington didn't back off with the lead changing hands.
"That was not a hang-your-head moment, because we felt like we could get those (runs) back and Paige went on to make a lot of quality pitches against good hitters," said Farmington coach Steve Morgan. "She and (head) Coach (Randy) Osnes were in tune to execute the game plan. They (De Queen) had that one good swing, but everything else worked beautifully. I have to include (catcher) Alyssa Reed, she's the one calling the pitches, in that golden triangle of calling pitches and executing pitches."
Morgan was referring to a sense of confidence Farmington gained from its first at-bat.
Lady Cardinal leadoff hitter Carley Antwine singled to begin the game. She moved to second when Alyssa Reed was hit by a pitch. Farmington scored on Madison Parrish's RBI double to take a 1-0 lead.
"Quality at-bats has been a goal of ours all season long," Morgan said. "When we scored the first run we had very productive at-bats from Carley Antwine and Madison Parrish that hit the ball hard. Hitting the ball hard early gave the team confidence at the plate. The feeling of confidence helped us overcome a two-run deficit."
After De Queen's 3-run outburst, Farmington went back to work in the top of the second and pushed a run across to make the score 3-2. Devecsery overcame the rough start, by striking out 6 and went the distance to propel Farmington its first Class 5A State championship game. The Lady Cardinals take the field against 5A West rival Greenbrier at Benton High School's softball field at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The Lady Cardinal offense, which had struggled in State 5A tournament wins over Magnolia (5-4) and Paragould (7-0) came up big with 3 runs in the fourth. Farmington's 2-out rally began with Kally Stout's solo home run, her first of the season, that tied the game at 3-3. Stout knocked a 1-1 pitch over the center field wall.
Her teammates got excited, yet maintained poise in the batter's box. Morgan typically doesn't hear the crowd while sitting in the dugout with 30 girls screaming for their teammates, but Saturday he did.
"There was an unbelievable crowd on Saturday," Morgan said. "They were six to seven deep from home plate to the right field foul pole. The fans were loud. We have a very supportive crowd and we appreciated that. It was a very noticeable crowd. It was massive."
Parrish and Reed walked to put two runners on, each with free passes. Seeing that, sophomore McKenzi Bogan singled to drive in Parrish for the go-ahead run and Farmington was up, 4-3. After falling behind 0-2, Paige Anderson drilled an RBI single to give the Lady Cardinals an insurance run and a 5-3 cushion.
An inning later, Antwine blasted a solo home run out of the ballpark and Farmington extended its lead to 5-3.
Devecsery got out of trouble in the sixth-inning without allowing a run after De Queen got two runners on.
Farmington added a pair of runs in the seventh on a De Queen error and a hit-by-pitch walked in a run. Devecsery retired De Queen in order to end the game, sending the Lady Cardinals into their first state championship game since winning the 4A crown in 2011.
Antwine, Bogan and Anderson produced 2 hits apiece for Farmington.
Lexy Taylor took the loss for De Queen. Farmington chased her after five and a third innings. Taylor gave up 6 runs on 9 hits while striking out two.
The Lady Cardinals bring a 13-game winning streak into the championship facing off against Greenbrier, whom ironically they haven't played yet this season despite belonging to the same conference.
"We're very proud of our conference (5A West), they present challenges every single day and playing in a tough conference helps prepare teams for state competition," Morgan said. "We have a lot of respect for Greenbrier and for the other teams that we've played. We're looking forward to the challenge."
Greenbrier beat another 5A West team, Morrilton, by an 11-3 score in Saturday's other semifinal setting up an all 5A West final. Morgan notes this won't be the first time Farmington and Greenbrier have played for a state title. He was an assistant coach when the Cardinal baseball team beat Greenbrier, 3-2, to win the 1985 Class 2A state championship, and is eagerly looking forward to Saturday's showdown.
"I never want this to end, it's been a lot of fun," Morgan said. "Let's keep it rolling."
Sports on 05/16/2018
Print Headline: Playing For All The Marbles