Four was the magic number for the Van Buren softball team Thursday night.
The Pointers scored four runs in the bottom of fourth thanks to four two-out hits to beat Bentonville 4-3 and take over first place in the 7A/6A-West.
Van Buren (19-4, 8-1) now travels to Springdale Friday to try to stay ahead of Bentonville (18-4, 8-2). The Pointers still have to play the Lady Tigers again on May 12 in a game that will probably decide the conference championship.
"I told the girls to enjoy tonight but it’s over when they go to bed," Van Buren coach Andy Williams said. "With Springdale next, we have to play well. If we lose, today’s win will mean nothing."
Bentonville had a chance to tie the game in the top of the seventh with runners on the corners and no outs. Mackenzie Hardison started the inning with a double followed by a base hit by Emma Kinsey.
The Lady Tigers, though, attempted a double steal and Van Buren catcher Baylor Miles threw Kinsey out trying to steal second. Hardison scored to make it 4-3, but Morgan Vaughan was now batting with the bases empty.
"We knew they would throw down. We were trying to get in a rundown," Bentonville coach Kent Early said. "We kind of rolled the dice there hoping they might throw it away or at least stay out of the double play. If I had to do it again, I would because I wanted to get the tying run on second with Morgan at bat."
Vaughan flied out to right and Alicia Lowery struck out to end the game.
With the state tournament looming in two weeks, Early said the game had a tournament-like feel.
"All games in this conference are tough and this one was no different," Early said.
Bentonville led 1-0 thanks to a sacrifice fly by Jordan Gartman in the second inning. The Lady Tigers, though, had the bases loaded and no outs, but Van Buren starter Tori Stafford minimized the damage.
The Pointers’ bats, silent the last two games, finally game alive in the four-run fourth. Van Buren had scored just four runs in the last two games combined.
With two outs and a runner on first, Austyn Deere started the rally with a double to right-center. Abby Killough tied the game with a single to left. Ashlee Deffenbaugh then beat out a hit to score one and a throwing error scored another for a 3-1 Van Buren lead. Defffenbaugh came around to score on Breanna Vest’s double down the left-field line.
"What pleased me was the bottom of the lineup hit the ball in that inning," Williams said. "We got little production from the top of the lineup and we get four runs against a top-flight pitcher. I have told them that no matter who goes to the plate, I have confidence in them. One through nine. All of them are good hitters. Our runs producers were the eight, nine and lead-off hitter. That is what excites me."
Bentonville, which hosts Heritage today, got a run back in the fifth on a two-out double by Lowery to get to within two at 4-2.
"What I was proud of is that we answered (with a run in the fifth) and that gave us a chance," Early said. "We kept responding and we didn’t give up."
Vest had three hits to lead Van Buren. Stafford got the complete-game win for Van Buren, walking two and striking out five.