Van Buren softball coach Andy Williams spelled out his team’s playoff scenario as simply as he could following Monday’s practice.
"I told them we pretty much had to win three games this week to get in," Williams said.
Sophomore Ashlee Deffenbaugh made a sensational running catch to rob Bentonville’s Amanda Parker with the bases loaded in the fifth inning. Then fellow sophomore Tori Patterson got three quick outs in the seventh as the Lady Pointers beat Bentonville, 7-6, to clinch a 7A State Tournament berth Friday.
"This means everything," Williams said. "I’ve got some girls from volleyball on the team and they didn’t qualify for state and we didn’t qualify in basketball. I told them Monday night we had to win three games this week, and we did."
Van Buren (11-14, 8-6 7A/6A-West) defeated Heritage, Siloam Springs and Bentonville this week to clinch its second consecutive postseason berth.
"Dad told us we probably had to win our last three games to make state and I think if anything that gave us some motivation," Kinsey Williams said. "Even last year, we would never have done something like that. Had we not won Tuesday, this wouldn’t have mattered right now."
Senior catcher Lauren Tipton agreed.
"It was heart-breaking our sophomore year for us not to make it and this being our last year, it’s such a big deal because we’ve had to fight for it every single game," Tipton said. "It means a lot."
Against Bentonville, the Lady Pointers struck for five two-out runs in the first and led 7-3 after four when the Lady Tigers (16-7, 8-5) began to nibble at the lead by scoring once in the fifth and loading the bases with one out in the fifth. But Deffenbaugh made a nice running catch to prevent a bases-clearing double.
"We got fortunate … (Bentonville coach Kent Early) was screaming, ‘Tag, tag, tag,’" Williams said. "She didn’t get back and we got it in. That was a big play in that we won by one. The line drive to right, after that, was huge."
Bentonville eventually cut the lead to 7-6 and had runners at second and third when Nicole Jeffries snagged a two-out rocket to retain Van Buren’s lead.
Senior Kinsey Williams singled with one out and scored the first run on Destiny Moses’ RBI single. After Deffenbaugh reached on an error, Breanna Best singled home a run and Nicole Jeffries’ two-run double made it 5-2.
Stafford singled home a run in the fourth and Williams later scored on a balk to account for the seventh run.
Along with Deffenbaugh’s grab, Tipton came up with two big plays to help seal the win. In the fourth, after the Lady Tigers loaded the bases with with one out, the alert Tipton picked off Shayli Martin at first base.
In the fifth, she threw out Anna Thomas attempting to steal.
"We’ve picked off three runners the last three games and they’ve all been three big outs," Williams said. "We don’t strike a lot of people out, so we have to find outs. The last three games we’ve really executed."
Van Buren 7, Bentonville 6
Bentonville 200 112 0 — 6 10 2
Van Buren 500 200 x — 7 6 1
Graham, Vaughn (4) and Fears; Patterson and Tipton. W — Patterson. L — Graham.