MONROE — The Benton Lady Tigers pushed the undefeated Class 5A Ouachita Parish Lady Lions to the limit in the Ouachita Parish Softball Tournament at the University of Louisiana at Monroe’s University Park’s Taco Bell Field on Saturday.
In the end, Ouachita (15-0) managed to pick up the final out to stop a four-run Benton rally in the top of seventh and preserve the 11-10 victory.
Despite the win, Ouachita coach Tim Whitman sees a lot of areas for the Lady Lions to work to put a game away down the stretch.
“I don’t think that we did a good job today when it comes to making plays at the plate,” Whitman said. “I thought we got some good swings early. Then, they (Benton) changed pitchers (from senior University of Louisiana at Lafayette signee Sarah Koeppen to freshman Kayla Vo), and the speed change threw us off. I also thought that we were not disciplined and swung at bad pitches that we shouldn’t have. We need to be a little more mentally tough than we were today.”
In the top of the first, Benton (6-4) took the early lead 1-0 as leadoff hitter Hallie Saintignan singled to get on base and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Abby Kent.
Ouachita is known for being a fundamentally sound and effective hitting team and the Lady Lions did not disappoint as the Lady Lions scored five in the bottom half of the first. Ouachita scored in the bottom of the first when Jordyn Manning blasted a two-run home run that scored Alyssa Allen who got on base with a walk earlier in the inning.
The Lady Lions were not done with their opening inning offensive explosion as Ouachita scored another three runs in the bottom of the first highlighted by Morgan Adams’ two-run home run the Lady Lions’ second long ball of the inning.
Benton bounced back in the top of the second scoring two runs to close the gap to 5-3.
Ouachita’s Tiya Randle opened the bottom of the second with a leadoff single. Again, Manning blasted a two run homer to give Ouachita Parish a 7-3 lead heading into the third inning.
Ouachita added three runs in the bottom of the third, and one run in the bottom of the sixth to take a 11-6 lead into the seventh.
In the top of the seventh, the Benton bats came to life as the Lady Tigers scored four runs and had runners at first and second when the Lady Lions picked up the final out to save the game for Ouachita.
Despite the one-run setback, Benton coach Michelle Owens was pleased with her team’s determination during adversity.
“We never gave up,” Owens said. “Our seniors took over that game and never gave up. Freshman Kayla Vo came out of the dugout in the second inning and did a fantastic job against a tough Ouachita lineup. We just need to keep plugging away, keep fighting and stay positive because we have a lot of games left.”
Whitman and his Lady Lions came away from the contest with some respect for a tough Benton squad that never quit.
“My hat is off to them (Benton), they didn’t give up when they got down there early,” Whitman said. “Benton battled back, showed grit and that is a mark of a team that competes for you. You like to see that as a coach. They made us play to the end.”