PRAIRIE GROVE -- As the 11th hour sounded, Prairie Grove found salvation in the seventh inning to begin 4A-1 Conference softball action at home against Berryville.
Berryville starter Faith Kelley presented a riddle for Prairie Grove batters that lasted six innings before the Lady Tigers resolved a two-out, 6-5, comeback win on Tuesday, March 30.
Both coaches agreed Kelley's performance effectively shut down the Lady Tigers' potent offense.
"Their pitcher was keeping us off stride. We were out in front a lot," said Prairie Grove coach Dave Torres. "We had to put up a 4-spot to win in the seventh. Something we talk a lot about is there are only 21 outs, and we had 20 outs in this game."
Berryville coach Josh Hatfield praised Kelley's pitching, noting other miscues cost the Lady Bobcats a win.
"It was probably one of the best games she's had," Hatfield said. "We made a few base-running mistakes over at third. You never want to get out at third, but we did. That cost us two runs that would have won the game."
Berryville forfeited an opportunity to extend its lead when senior outfielder Emily Utt doubled off the right field wall to leadoff the seventh inning. Prairie Grove pitcher Chloe Hillian induced the next batter, Lora Grace Hill, to hit into a fielder's choice and Prairie Grove sophomore Kaylee Kincaid tagged Utt out as she ran towards third.
Kelley hit a long fly ball that was caught deep in the outfield for the second out and Lady Bobcat first baseman Karlea Standlee hit a grounder to second. Forced to make a play, Prairie Grove came through on defense with Sydney Stearman diving into the dirt stopping the ball. Shortstop Makinsey Parnell came over, picked the ball up, and fired a throw to Madison Hutchinson at first in time to end Berryville's last at-bat.
With Prairie Grove up in a do-or-die situation, Kennison Hamilton swung on the first pitch, sending a fly ball into right field where it was caught and bringing the Lady Bobcats to within two outs of victory.
They never got there, thanks to the tenacity of the Lady Tigers, who shook off memories of ill-fated at-bats up to that juncture.
Hillian drove a single on the ground past first base to get aboard.
Charity Stearman tripled on an 0-1 pitch plating Hillian, making it a two-run game. Elizabeth Stoufer drove in Charity Stearman by blasting a double, inching the Lady Tigers within 5-4.
Hatfield came out to the mound, but didn't make any changes in the lineup.
Sydney Stearman came up with the tying run at second. She drove a ground ball to shortstop, which was fielded cleanly, but a cutoff throw went past third allowing Charity Stearman to score tying the game at 5-5 much to the delight of Prairie Grove fans.
The drama escalated with Berryville executing an outstanding defensive play.
Makinsey Parnell belted a solid single, but the Lady Bobcats relay to the plate came in time to tag Sydney Stearman for the second out. Prairie Grove was now down to its last out with Parnell moving to second on the throw home.
Both coaches also mentioned Hill's gun-out throw in their postgame assessments.
"Their center fielder made a heckuva throw to the plate to get [Sydney] Stearman, but with one out I was going to send her because I knew it would get the runner to second and we'd still have a chance," Torres said.
"Center fielder LoraGrace Hill made an excellent throw home to get her out," Hatfield said. "It was a good battle for us, especially coming off spring break. We just made a few base-running mistakes."
Torres' tactical gamble paid big dividends because the next batter, Kelsey Pickett, blasted a double that enabled Parnell to scoot home, ending the game in a 6-5 Prairie Grove triumph.
"It was a good win to start conference," Torres said. "We had some good, clutch hitting in the seventh to win it, but not much before that."
March 30, 2021
At Prairie Grove
Prairie Grove 6, Berryville 5
Berryville (2-3, 0-1) 012^020^0^--^5^13^2
Prairie Grove (7-3, 1-0) 100^100^4^--^6^9^0
W -- Hillian, L -- Kelley.