HOPE – After struggling in a rough outing for the season opener, the Hope High School Ladycats fought their way to a fourth-place finish in the annual Ashdown softball tourney.
The Ladycat pitching by Grace Trauger earned her a shutout against Avery in the March 5 tournament opener and a 12-0 win.
Ashlyn Courtney sparked the Ladycat bats driving in four runs and hitting three for four at the plate. Courtney scored runners on a single in the first, a double in the third and a single in the fourth to lead the Ladycat attack.
With a five-run first inning, the Ladycats gave Trauger the backing, allowing only one hit with no runs through four frames. Trauger struck out one and had no walks as Courtney, Zakiyah Randle and Trauger unloaded at the plate in a game that saw all 13 girls on the roster take the field.
Hope maintained the momentum in the second round March 6, defeating Arkansas High in five innings with a thrilling 10-9 comeback win.
After building a six-run lead in the first three innings, the Ladycats fell short going into the final stanza. Trailing 9-7 in the top of the fifth, Aiyana Martin reached on a third strike pass ball that scored three runs to seal the game.
Grace Trauger went three and a third innings on the mount for Hope as the winning pitcher, with six runs on five hits, two strike outs and no walks. Trauger got relief for the final one and two-thirds from Ashlyn Courtney out the bullpen.
But, the Ladycat magic was broken in the next game against Booneville as Payton Rhods was on the mound for Hope, but allowed six runs on five hits in two innings, while striking out one and giving up zero walks.
Booneville’s bats were too strong as Aiyana Martin reached on a single in the third inning but the Ladycats lost 10-0.
Hope struggled with pitching problems and quiet bats the remainder of the day, losing to Ashdown, 16-0, as Rhodes gave up five runs on six hits over one and two-thirds innings, with one strike out and no walks. Courtney and Randle each collected a hit, but did not score.
The Ladycats placed fourth in a field of 17.
Hope’s season opener away at Taylor, perhaps, portended the batting drought to come with a 17-2 loss to Taylor on March 4.
Scoring one in the top of the first inning, Taylor answered in the bottom of the frame with five runs. But, the Ladycat defense held in the second inning, allowing no runs and completing a double-play to end the inning.
Hope’s remaining score came in the top of the third, but Taylor unloaded with 12 runs to end the game on the run rule.
Courtney and Martin drew walks and both scored them on sacrifices by Trauger and Rhodes. But, with seven of nine hitters reaching safely, the Ladycats were unable to bring them home.
Trauger threw two and one-third, allowing seven hits and one walk, while Rhodes worked in relief in the third inning.
The Ladycats return to the diamond this week with road games against Mena on March 9 and Foreman on Mary 11. Hope plays its home opener March 12 against Fountain Lake at Ladycat Yard at Fair Park.