FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Rose Bud (35-1) won its third 3A state softball championship in four years Monday, but it didn’t come as easy as some would have expected.
The defending champions scored twice in the first inning, and two more in the second for an early 4-0 lead en route to a 7-3 victory over Genoa Central.
Things dramatically changed in the top of the fourth when the Lady Dragons roughed up Rose Bud star pitcher Gracie Hartle. Hartle came into the title game with a 24-1 record and 271 strikeouts in 132 innings.
Senior pitcher Raegan Keith ignited Genoa Central’s big inning with a single to center. Courtesy runner Emily Anderson moved up on Madison Banister’s single to left. Kelsey Mattson fought back from an 0-2 counter to single home Anderson, with Banister racing to third. A sacrifice fly made it 4-2, and Mattson scored later on a fielder’s choice grounder.
“Rose Bud had shut out most of its opponents this season in five innings,” said Genoa Central coach Richard McMillan. “We took them seven innings, and put three runs on them. I’m really proud of our girls, and how they fought. The (Joley) Mitchell girls really stung us in the bottom of the fourth with a two-run homer to make it 6-3. Despite that we were still in the game at that point.”
Mitchell’s 13th homer was good luck for Rose Bud
Mitchell was Rose Bud’s leadoff batter this season. She hit over .700 this season, and Monday’s homer was her 13th of the season. She also scored 67 runs and drove in 77 this year. Junior Hope Hartle hit .619 this season, with 26 doubles, 7 triples and 11 home runs.
“I think our nerves sort of had us early,” said McMillan. “I guarantee we earned our three runs off a really good pitcher. We put the ball in play, but couldn’t come up with the big hit often enough.”
The Lady Dragons peaked at the right time after finishing fourth in the regional tournament. Their 17-16 record was somewhat of a disappointment considering Genoa Central had six seniors on its roster.
McMillan suspects graduation will hurt, but he’s confident the Dragons will be a force in 2020. Faith Green, Kallie Minter, Olivia Cross and Josie Walls will be back. Genoa’s coach is also excited about a strong freshman class that features at least eight prospects for the varsity.