HASKELL - The Harmony Grove Lady Cardinals have been the hottest team in Saline County all season. Now sitting at 30-2 overall on the year, Harmony Grove is looking for its fourth 3A State Championship since winning three in a row from 2002-04.
While many tournament roads are not easy to travel, the Lady Cardinals have made easy work of their opponent in tournament play, winning three straight before entering the 2013 State Tournament recently. Harmony Grove won the Woodlawn, 3A District and Region 2 Regional tournaments in three straight weekends and now has a chance at more heroics.
“I am very proud of the girls and how they have worked all season,” Head Coach Sammi Massey said. “They have worked great together and played really hard so far.”
As if three tournament titles weren’t enough, the Lady Cardinals have allowed just one run in State, outscoring their opposition 25-1 in three games. Harmony Grove’s pitching gave up its first run of the state tournament in its 10-1 dominating win over Rivercrest on Monday in the semifinals in Pine Bluff.
“[Kristen Dempsey and LJ Helmich] have done a fabulous job this year,” Massey said. “They have held their composure and it is not easy being a softball pitcher. I am impressed with how they have handled it. They have both done a great job and have pitched really well in tournament play.”
Dempsey and Helmich have given up a combined one run on 14 hits and have struck out 24 hitters in state.
But with the dominating pitching performances, the Lady Cardinals’ bats have also been red hot and especially in state. Dempsey, Helmich and Faith Otts have combined for 15 hits, 13 runs and are hitting an astonishing .517. As a whole, Harmony Grove is hitting .360 with 9 of its 32 hits going for extra bases.
“Our hitting has been very good all year long,” Massey said. “I pitch to them every day [in practice] and I wouldn’t want to face 1 through 9. They all are capable of hitting the ball and hitting it very well. You can’t do it with just one, they all come through.”
Dempsey has been the leader of the offense in state, going 5 for 11 with 10 RBI and 5 runs scored. The standout shortstop dominated in the semifinals, finishing with 8 RBI and two home runs.
“Dempsey has come up big many times,” Massey said. “But they have all pulled their weight and have all done well this year.”
Helmich has also put together a good tournament, going 5 for 8 with 2 RBI and 6 runs.
But even with all of the wins, nothing matters compared to Friday’s contest with Lavaca in the 3A State Finals. Lavaca slipped past Bald Knob in the semifinals 5-4 to advance. But the road to the finals has been drastically different from Harmony Grove for the Golden Arrows. Lavaca beat Fordyce and Harding Academy 1-0 in the first two rounds before winning a third 1-run game in the semifinals.
“Every game they have played has been close,” Massey said. “We just have to keep hitting like we have been. I will be excited to see how [Dempsey] pitches. We have been pretty consistent all year long and I think that is going to stay.”
The Lady Cardinals are set to battle the Region 1 No. 1 Golden Arrows on Friday at Bogle Park in Fayetteville. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m. right after the Benton Lady Panthers take on Russellville in the 6A finals at 2 p.m.