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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

STATE CHAMPIONS! Booneville Lady Bearcats Win the Class 3A State Championship!

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Note to Our Readers: The following story was sourced directly and in its entirety from Mr. Glenn Parrish, Director of Communicaitons, Booneville School District. Mr. Parrish is a RNN Sports contributor, and we thank him for bringing this story to our readers. And on behalf of all of us at RNN Sports, we congratulate the Booneville Lady Bearcats on winning the Class 3A state softball championship!

If you’re looking for a hero from Saturday’s Lady Cat 4-3 state championship win over Atkins there is an obvious place to start.

Lexi Franklin, despite being inadvertently hit in the head with a bat by a teammate during an off-site batting practice, threw a complete game in which she allowed six hits and two earned runs. She struck out three, including the final Lady Red Devil hitter of the day.

“We stopped at a park down the road and (Franklin) got hit in the eye and had to get six stitches. She got here like 20 minutes before game time and she threw a heck of a game,” said head coach Chad Simpson.

Simpson explained the reason for the stop before the game was because popup nets for hitting were prohibited at Farris Field on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas, the host of the weekend of champions.

“They were hitting and all of a sudden she’s bleeding. I was freaking out . She told me before she left she was coming back no matter what,” Simson adds.

Franklin, who was named the MVP of the game, was also perfect at the plate. She was 1-for-1 with a double and was intentionally walked three times (shown above tossing the bat away after the third free pass).

Her double off the fence in left came leading off the second inning and was followed by a throwing error with sophomore catcher Roni Tillery at the plate that allowed Franklin to move to third.

Tillery grounded out to score Franklin with the first run of the game  and is another of the hero choices. Tillery would later have a second RBI that proved to be the game winner.

With the bases empty after Tillery’s first RBI, Cam Parrish singled but she would be erased on a fielder’s choice grounder by Kylie Lunsford.

A wild pitch got Lunsford to second and a double by Karmen Kent doubled the lead to 2-0.

Kent, a senior, is another choice for hero. Hitting eighth in the order, Kent was responsible for three of the seven Lady Cat hits.

Karmen Kent encourages her teammates after reaching second base safely in Booneville’s state championship win over Atkins (RNN Sports Photo / Glenn Parrish)

“Oh wow,” Kent said after the game. “I don’t keep up. It was like Raymond Turner used to tell us, ‘hit that yeller thing.’ You’ve got to hit it to get on base.”

Atkins took a 3-2 lead in the third. A double to center started the inning and a triple over Kent in right put the tying run at third. A two error play – the Lady Cats committed four – tied the game and a single gave Atkins its first lead at 3-2.

“We kind of reverted back to our old ways a little bit,” said Simpson. “We made a few errors. We kept telling the girls you’ve got to brush it off. These girls have responded the last few weeks. I’m just so proud of them.”

After a circle visit by assistant coach Bailey Stringer, Franklin got an infield popup and a fly to center to end the inning.

Kent beat out an infield single to start the Lady Cat fourth and moved over when Presley Walker drew a walk. Kent moved to third when Layla Byrum worked another walk, but she would be out at home on a ground ball by Smith for the first out.

Leigh Swint, whose mother was on the 2004 state title team, delivered a ground ball that would get Walker home with the tying run home.

But with first base open Franklin was intentionally walked to reload the bases. Tillery was patient earned the walk that force in the go-ahead run.

Tillery admitted it was a little aggravating to be the preferred option at the plate and said she was trying to look for, “my pitch. I just wanted to get on base and get her in.”

Her was Byrum, who was frustrated throughout the day but the four-year starter at shortstop worked through it and was happy to trade a personal subpar day for a title with her team.

“I’m literally losing my mind,” Byrum said during the postgame celebration. “I got down on myself – the hitting the fielding, everything. But this is worth it.”

Franklin worked around a leadoff single in the Atkins fourth and Atkins was able to negate a one-out triple by Smith in the Lady Cat sixth – after intentionally walking Franklin again – and it was still 4-3 going to the seventh.

Kent beat out another infield single in the top of the inning but was stranded.

After Franklin got a fly ball to Kent in right and a ground ball to Swint at third, the same position her mother played, on back-to-back pitches she was within an out of a title.

Franklin had the Atkins cleanup hitter in an 0-2 hole but after two balls and a foul ball, another ball ran the count full, so Tillery called for a time out and went to the circle.

“I told her we needed her,” Tillery said of the visit. “I said you’ve got this.”

The next pitch was low but swung at and missed with Tillery throwing to Smith to complete the out and the title.

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Jim Best
Jim Best is a man of many talents. His storied career in Arkansas education led him to a new passion, and hidden gifts in sports journalism.
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