Junction City ends BIC'S State Title dreams, 3-0
Junction City's Courtney Lowe threw a two-hit shutout and scored two runs in a 3-0 whitewash of Buffalo Island Central in the finals of the 2A State Championship Saturday morning at Bogle Field on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
It was the third trip to the state finals for Lowe, but her first championship after two bitter disappointments. Lowe helped herself at the plate with a pair of singles and some gutsy base running that included a steal of home plate in the sixth inning, giving the Lady Dragons a crucial insurance run.
"Courtney is an outstanding senior who has been here before and was determined not to lose today," said first year Junction City Coach Kendall Hutcheson. "She is just an outstanding player. This was one of the best games she has pitched all year."
The Lady Dragons broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth, scoring an unearned run. Lowe hit a fly ball to deep right field that bounced off the right fielder's glove for a two-base error. Lowe intentionally got in a run down one out later, and scored what proved to be the winning run on a wild throw.
The Lady Dragons tacked on their second run of the game in the bottom of the fifth after two were out. Olivia Petty reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a base hit up the middle by Shania Hoof. Katie Glover drove in Petty with a sharp single up the middle, giving Junction City a 2-0 edge.
The Lady Dragons got an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Lowe stole home with two outs.
"We were having trouble getting hits off their pitcher, so we felt like we needed to take some chances on the base paths with some delayed steals and it worked out for us," said Hutcheson. "BIC is a young team and so are we. We start seven sophomores who just got better and better as the season went on. We seemed to have peaked at the right time. It's an incredible feeling, winning the state championship. This is my first year to coach these girls, and they have done an incredible job."
Lowe, who was named Most Valuable Player, went the distance to pick up the win, hurling seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits. Lowe struck out eight, issued one walk and hit a batter.
Freshman Madison Greathouse was equally impressive on the hill for the Lady Mustangs, fanning eight Lady Dragons in six innings of work. The hard throwing right hander gave up five hits, three of which came in the fifth inning. Greathouse allowed three runs, but only one earned, and did not issue a walk. Greathouse also had one of the two BIC hits on the day.
The Lady Mustangs struggled offensively, advancing runners to second base only twice. Greathouse reached second after a lead-off single to start the fourth inning, but the rally ended when Lowe struck out Brittany Fowler and then got Kelsey Strickland to line into a 4-3 double play.
BIC tried to rally in the top of the seventh when Strickland led off the inning with a towering double off the right field fence, but Lowe got the next two batters before the game ended when Hannah Poe was caught in a run down and was tagged out, giving the Lady Dragons the state title.
"We made a couple of errors and Junction City had a couple of trick plays that proved to be the difference in the game," said BIC Coach Marty Williford. "These girls have played hard all year, and they played their hearts out today," said an emotional Williford. "Madison pitched a fantastic game. Striking out 12 batters is quite an accomplishment for a freshman. I told the girls we will be back. We started four freshmen today. I thought the key to our season was that they never gave up. They just kept fighting and fighting all year."
It was quite a turnaround for BIC, who went just 3-10 a year ago. The Lady Mustangs end this season with a 24-3 mark and a state runner-up finish.