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Pitchers duel ends with Riverside win

by Leland Barclay Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette | May 20, 2023 at 2:32 a.m.

CONWAY -- One run was all the Riverside Lady Rebels thought they needed, and they were right.

Mackenzie Thomas' soft liner to left in the sixth inning scored the only run of the Class 2A championship softball game Friday afternoon and gave Riverside a 1-0 win over Mansfield at Farris Field.

With one out in the top of the sixth inning, Annalee Qualls, who bats leadoff for Riverside (25-4), lined a single to right, took second on a wild pitch and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Kaylee Cox.

"We got the perfect sacrifice down and moved the runner over to third," Riverside Coach T.J. Eacklin said. "All we needed was a ball put in play, and Mackenzie Thomas, a senior, got a big hit. That was just what we needed."

Thomas, a third baseman who has signed to play at Williams Baptist University, also blooped a single in the first inning and popped out in the fourth before the big hit.

"I went up there and I didn't hit like I had wanted to," Thomas said. "My mind said that it's my third at-bat, I was going to get a hit. I don't know how, but I'm going to get a hit. Coming off the field before that inning, we all told each other, one run, one run. Then I came up with a runner on third and a job to do, and I did my job."

That lone run was plenty for sophomore pitcher Klaire Womack, who was named the Most Valuable Player award. She allowed 2 hits, walked 2, including 1 intentionally, and struck out 18 of the 22 batters she faced.

"Once we go up 1-nothing, I felt pretty confident the way she was dealing it," Eacklin said. "Klaire pitched an outstanding game. They came through when we had to."

Womack and Mansfield junior Alyson Edwards took turns mowing down the opposing batters for five innings.

The two had nine strikeouts through three innings. Through five innings, Womack had 13 strikeouts and Edwards had 14.

"I knew we were going to struggle hitting because she's a really good pitcher," Womack said. "I knew I had to be my best. I knew our defense had to be the best. I just did what I do best."

That made Qualls' one-out single and Thomas' two-out single so big in the sixth.

"We had a runner on first, and we knew we had to move her up," Eacklin said. "Luckily, they threw one to the backstop and gave us second. So we went ahead and bunted her to third. We only needed a base hit."

Mansfield (28-4) tried to answer in the bottom of the sixth.

Kynslee Ward lined a one-out double to the wall in right center field. After a strikeout, Edwards was walked intentionally.

"I don't think anybody in the ballpark would have pitched to her," Eacklin said. "There was no question. If we were going to get beat, we weren't going to get beat by their best player. We'll get beat by somebody else."

Womack then retired the final four batters for the win.

"Any time it's 0-0, every pitch counts," Mansfield Coach Donnie Eveld said. "It don't matter if it's first pitch or last pitch. They made the play when they had to."

Womack threw 106 pitches in the game and threw a first-pitch strike to 17 batters.

"It's so important because as the game goes on I get tired so I have to save pitches," Womack said. "I like getting ahead."

Print Headline: Pitchers duel ends with Riverside win


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