CABOT -- Three meetings between Bentonville and Bentonville West weren't enough this spring.
The fourth one will have a state championship on the line.
Bentonville (29-3) moved to the Class 7A softball title game first as the Lady Tigers claimed a 5-1 victory over Cabot. Bentonville West (25-6) followed to earn its first final in any sport by holding on for a 3-2 victory over Bryant.
Bentonville defeated Bentonville West the first two times this season, but the Lady Wolverines were victorious 10-5 in their last meeting Tuesday.
Morgan Nelson's line-drive single drove in Keelah Griffith in the fourth inning with the go-ahead run, and McKenzie Vaughan followed with a two-run home run as Bentonville handled Cabot at Panther Field.
It's the Lady Tigers' fourth consecutive trip to the title game and moves them one step closer to their third consecutive title.
"We have one more game, and no game is ever easy," Bentonville Coach Kent Early said. "We can't take anything for granted. It's a credit to these kids getting back there, and it isn't easy in a single-elimination tournament."
Griffith -- who answered Cabot's run in the top of the second with a solo home run in the bottom of the second to tie the game 1-1 -- delivered a single with one out in the fourth, went to second on an error and took third on a wild pitch. Nelson drove her in to give Bentonville a 2-1 lead.
Vaughan, a freshman third baseman, followed by knocking a line drive over the left-field fence for her 12th home run of the season and a 4-1 lead. Tymber Riley drove in Bentonville's final run with a bases-loaded single for a 5-1 edge.
Cailey Cochran (22-2) went the distance to finish with a four-hitter despite a rocky second inning. Cabot (23-7) had the bases loaded with one out when Kaitlyn Campbell was hit by a pitch to force in a run, but Cochran avoided further damage when she struck out the next two batters.
BENTONVILLE WEST 3, BRYANT 2
Alyssa Cordell contributed to Bentonville West's first two runs as the Lady Wolverines held off Bryant's late charge.
Bentonville West started the third inning with three consecutive singles, and Cordell was on third when Bryant tried to pick off Jazmine Dodd at second. Cordell took off for home when the ball squirted away and was tagged out, but the umpires huddled and ruled interference on Bryant catcher Meagan Chism, allowing Cordell to score.
The Lady Wolverines had a chance to add to their lead when Honesty Holt singled to right, but the umpires ruled Dodd out for failure to touch third base before coming home.
"Alyssa made a decision and got in there," Cantrell said. "I thought the catcher was up the line and on the chalk. I thought they made the right call. Then I asked Jazmine if she had missed third base, and she did."
Cordell made it a 2-0 game an inning later when she singled to drive in Endya Moler, who had hit a leadoff single. Ryen Rassi then belted a home run over the center-field fence in the fifth.
Bryant (28-5) scored in the fifth when Isabella Herring tripled past a diving Rassi in left field and came home on Regan Ryan's single. The Lady Hornets made things interesting in the seventh when Ryan and Sarah Evans singled and Chism doubled off Alex McManus, who relieved starting pitcher Emma Wood to start the inning and was seeing her first action of the season after an injury.
McManus struck out Raven Loveless, then fielded Brooklyn Trammell's grounder and threw to first to end the game.
"We were coming through the lineup for the fourth time," Cantrell said of his pitching switch. "Alex has worked to get herself back healthy, and I felt like it was the time to give it a shot if we were going to give it.
"We got through it. We survived and advanced."
Sports on 05/13/2018
Print Headline: Fourth meeting ups rivals' stakes