By Rob Patrick
BENTONVILLE — Lisa Stanfield lobbied hard to get the game played.
With rain falling for the sixth consecutive day in northwest Arkansas, officials at the Class 7A State softball tournament at Bentonville High School, having finally reached the semifinals, were considering postponing the last two games of the day on Tuesday. The quarterfinals had just been completed and the final four teams were all from the 7A-Central Conference, including Stanfield's Bryant Lady Hornets, who won the regular-season championship in that league, earning the top seed to the tourney.
In a tournament that featured a 30-1 Fayetteville team as the odds-on favorite, suddenly it was Bryant in the cat-bird seat.
And having the top seed proved to be more of an advantage than usual when it was decided that the game would be played between the Lady Hornets and the rival Conway Lady Wampus Cats. Earlier in the day, the Lady Cats had dodged the raindrops well enough to eliminate the host Lady Tigers of Bentonville 4-1.
With Conway and Bryant in one semifinal, and Cabot, which upset Fayetteville in a game suspended on Monday night and completed Tuesday morning, along with defending State champion North Little Rock in the other, there was the thought that the games could be postponed and to avoid forcing the four teams to travel so far again or stay another night, they could play at a neutral location in central Arkansas to determine which two teams would return to play the State title game in Fayetteville on Saturday. Having already played, Conway was lobbying for that decision and the chance to take on Bryant afresh on another day at another place.
"For one thing, we've been playing in this mess all week and there was no reason not to keep playing," Stanfield related. "I would've been fighting the same fight that Conway was fighting if I was in their position. They had to do what they had to do and I've got to do what I've got to do and push to play. It was tense. I think it was the right thing to do. And I think, tonight, we were the better team anyway.
"Being able to see live pitching (on Monday in a 12-2 win over Springdale Har-Ber) and then come out rested, and having had time to review my notes on Conway, it was really nice to come in fresh," she added. "We really didn't feel the rain coming in fresh like that."
Yes, the game was played and, behind the five-hit shutout tossed by senior Christen Kirchner and a 14-hit attack on offense led by Jessie Taylor and Kayla Sory, the Lady Hornets earned a spot in the Class 7A State championship game this Saturday at noon with an 8-0 win over Conway.