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Arkansas All-Star weekend: West takes first game of softball twinbill, but second game ends in a tie

West baseball wins second game after a tie in opener; West also takes the win in girls soccer

By Kyle Sutherland | Photos by Ted McClenning 

CONWAY — The 2022 Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star weekend got under way Friday with the baseball, softball, volleyball and soccer games on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas.

In the softball game, the West All-Star team got off to a hot start in the first game of a doubleheader, winning 9-1 powered by an explosive fourth inning in which they put up four runs scored by Maci McJunkins (Nashville), Lilly Hood (White Hall), Hope Johnson (Vilonia), Ashley Chambers (Nashville) and Kendyl Kemp (Fordyce) that made the score 5-1.

Two more runs each in the fifth and sixth innings would separate the game even further, and Dardanelle’s Morgan Parsons came in for the seventh to close it out by retiring all three batters in a row, striking out the first two.

Despite both teams only having about four hours of time to practice, West coach Ronnie Denton (Booneville) mentioned they came focused and their willingness to compete showed in both games.

“Luckily they came ready, they are a very talented group,” Denton said. “The girls came out and they competed, worked hard, and did everything we asked them to do in the hot sun.

"They never complained, such great attitudes, and it is just an honor to be chosen by my peers to come out here and coach such wonderful ladies and softball players.”

The West got on the board early in the top of the first when Greenbrier’s McKayla Betts, an Alabama-Birmingham signee, scored from third base on an RBI single from McJunkins.

Bryant’s Regan “Buddha” Dillon tied the game in the bottom of the third when she hit a solo home run off of McJunkins, Dillon's soon-to-be teammate at Southern Arkansas.

Dillon was 1-for-1 with that home run in the bottom of the fourth and also walked once as the top performer statistically for the East, while McJunkins went 2-for-3 with an RBI and also scored a run for the West team.

McJunkins was also impressive in the circle, other than the home run, throwing 1 1/3 innings, striking out five batters and allowing just two hits.

Macey Cutsinger (Greenwood), an Oklahoma Baptist signee, went 2-for-2 at the plate for the West while Benton’s Elana Scott was the top pitcher for East, throwing three innings and striking out three batters.

In the second game, the East - led by Cabot’s Chris Cope - would not allow another lopsided contest as the day was capped with a 7-7 tie.

Alma’s Mackenzie Martin came in to pitch for the West in the fifth and was very good to start, retiring six out of seven batters in two innings before the East got rolling and scored a quick three runs in the top of the seventh. Janiah Wilson (North Little Rock) scored the first run that inning, followed by Abby Simmons (Armorel), and Scott - pinch running for Conway’s Katlyn Erickson - as the East took a 7-4 lead.

Erickson relieved West Side Greers Ferry’s McKenna Bittle in the bottom of the seventh, but the West quickly got runners on second and third base with no one out and were able to score after Ciera Cravens (Bentonville West) reached second on an error.

Down by just one run, Parsons batted Cravens in following a single in which Parsons was able to advance to second herself after another error, tying the score.

The speedy Chambers came in to courtesy run for Parsons and stole third right before Hackett’s Sarah White was walked. That put runners on the corners with two outs, but the West was unable to take any further advantage.

One of the highlight plays of the day happened in the bottom of the second when Betts chased a pop fly into shallow left field, stretched out for the ball and made an incredible catch.

Betts played great defense all day and was named the game’s Herb Jones Most Valuable Player. At the plate, she went 1-for-4 with a run scored, a stolen base and drawing a walk.

“Nobody on the field here thought that the play (Betts' second-inning catch) was going to be made and she just found a way to make it,” Denton said. “She helped us win the first game and then helped us to tie the second one. Just watching her and the way she approaches the game, her batting is special.

"We were going through [batting] cages and watching the girls get a chance to hit, it just sounds different when it comes off of her bat. If you were here and saw what she did in the field, she made play after play. She is just so impressive and I wish her the best of luck.”

The Outstanding Player for the West was White Hall’s Lilly Hood, a Texas-San Antonio signee, who went 2-for-4 on the day with two singles, two RBIs and two runs scored.

Benton’s Shelby Samples, a Mississippi College signee, was named the East's Outstanding Player. Offensively, she was 1-for-4 with a double. 


Like softball, there was also a tie score in one of the two All-Star baseball games held on Friday.

The opening game ended in a 2-2 tie, but the West was able to take the second game, winning 4-2.

Batesville’s Ty Rush was named the East's Outstanding Player while Morrilton’s Casey Jones was awarded the West's Outstanding Player.

Girls Soccer

The West team earned the victory in the girls soccer All-Star game, shutting out the East, 4-0, led by two goals and an assist from Harrison's Olivia Pall’s (Harrison), named the Most Valuable Player.

Madison Lampkin (Russellville) and Denise Ruiz (Cossatot River) also each had a goal for the West.