2024 Arkansas high school softball state finals preview

The bittersweet time of year has arrived as the 2024 season will wrap up at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway for the Weekend of Champions from Thursday through Saturday.

Each team has earned the right to compete on this stage and will get the opportunity to play for the ultimate prize before a statewide audience.

If you are not able to make it to the game, you can catch all of the action on Arkansas PBS. Also, be sure to tune into the week’s episode of ‘Arkansas Preps Weekly’ wherever you listen to podcasts – YouTube, Apple, Spotify and many more – for more in-depth analysis.


When: Friday 4 p.m.

Teams: Bentonville (26-6) vs. Springdale Har-Ber (23-8)


Head Coach: Kent Early

For the tenth time since 2010, the Lady Tigers will compete for the state’s largest prize after winning it all five times from 2016-2022. They were looking to three-peat for the first time in school history last season before Bryant stunned them in the semifinals. Redemption was earned in the exact same situation this time around thanks to Ava Stimis’ three-run seventh inning bomb that eventually sealed the game for Bentonville.

“When we lost [in 2023] it almost felt like a funeral,” Coach Kent Early said. “It was not supposed to happen and it did.”

In the quarterfinals against Conway, a walk-off three-run homer by Amber Turner, plus a perfect game from ace Ryann Sanders – who were the team’s lone returning starters this year – got the job done in what Early referred to as a memorable senior moment.

“I explained to our girls afterwards that a perfect game is so rare and the ultimate dream of any kid playing in the backyard is to hit the walk-off winning home run, and dang, we got to do both of them in the same game. That is unbelievable and it was both seniors who stepped up in that moment.”

Since the uncharacteristic slow start, the Lady Tigers have won 22 of their past 23 games, not counting the four contests they played in Van Buren’s River City Rumble that had time limits. One of their signature wins was a 3-0 triumph over Calvary Baptist (La.), who just completed a 35-2 season and won the program’s fourth consecutive state championship. Now they will look to capture the program’s sixth all-time state championship against a Har-Ber squad that they swept during the regular season in two contests.


FR Kylee Wyman – .444 BA/ .487 OBP/ .747 SLG, 15 2B, 5 HR, 35 RBI

SR Amber Turner – .412 BA/ .477 OBP/ .773 SLG, 10 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 23 RBI

FR Alexis Lorennij – .394 BA/ .491 OBP/ .681 SLG, 10 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 24 RBI

SO Demi Donahoe – .363 BA/ .404 OBP/ .407 SLG, 2 2B, 1 3B, 10 RBI

SR Ryann Sanders – 21-3, 115.1 IP, 194 K, 0.86 ERA, .174 BAA


Head Coach: Randy Osnes

Lady Wildcats fearless leader Randy Osnes is in a familiar position with a new team. Osnes earned nine trips to the state finals during his 25 years at Farmington and won three championships with the Lady Cardinals, plus 21 conference titles. Oh, he’s also the state’s all-time winningest coach with 615 career victories. Osnes returned to coaching following a brief retirement and has Har-Ber in the championship round for the first time in program history.

Osnes knew he was walking into a great situation with a host of young talent that starts with Anniston Reith, a junior University of South Alabama commit. Along with Reith, the majority of the Lady Wildcats’ lineup are underclassmen. Excluding a brief slump in April where the Lady Wildcats dropped five of six contests, they remained consistent as the youth continued to mature.

“These kids can play and have proven that they can with anyone at anytime,” Osnes said. “They have really put it all together lately and it has been a lot of fun to watch. There is also a lot of competition coming out of the dugout who are trying to make sure they are on top of our game with those varsity players. It has been a total team effort and it has been fun to watch it all come together at the right time of the year.”

One of the more impressive stories regarding Har-Ber’s squad is the development of pitcher Cyarah Dotts and catcher Xiomara Sanchez, both freshmen who will be one of the state’s better batteries for the coming seasons.

“It is huge for us to be in a situation like this where these kids were playing 14 and under this past summer and now they step in to play 17 and 18 year olds,” Osnes said. “It is a big jump and it took a few weeks, but they really jumped in during the offseason and got stronger. They have come a long way and we could not be any more proud of them than we are.”


JR Anniston Reith – .457 BA/ .577 OBP/ 1.08 SLG, 11 2B, 13 HR, 44 RBI // 3-2, 48.2 IP, 65 K, 4.17 ERA, .251 BAA

JR Zyria Palmer – .384 BA/ .474 OBP/ .434 SLG, 3 2B, 1 3B, 15 RBI

FR Xiomara Sanchez – .375 BA/ .425 OBP/ .594 SLG, 6 2B, 5 HR, 26 RBI

SR Ryli Wolfe – .367/ .417 OBP/ .541 SLG, 6 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 19 RBI

FR Cyarah Dotts – 19-6, 141.1 IP, 189 K, 1.93 ERA, .210 BAA // .264/ .350 OBP/ .321 SLG, 1 2B, 1 3B, 6 RBI


When: Thursday 7 p.m.

Teams: Beebe (26-4) vs. Sheridan (27-2)


Head Coach: Sara Flenor

For the first time since 2007, Beebe will play for a state championship. Sara Flenor was a senior on that team, as well as the 2005 finals squad during her sophomore campaign. The Lady Badgers came up short in both of those contests, but Flenor did earn three more trips as a coach and won two rings. There is always pressure when a trophy is on the line, but embracing the underdog role has helped calm nerves.

“This one is a little more nerve-wracking for me [being my alma mater], but I do not think anyone in the state is going to win except for us,” Flenor said. “We think we are going to win, but I like having that little bit of an underdog advantage. I know that in the past going into the finals, regardless if I was playing or coaching, I really thought that we were supposed to win it. This one seems a little different in that aspect. Our girls are playing so loose that I think they truly believe that whatever is going to happen will happen.

“I do not know that I have ever had this coachable of a group.”

The Lady Badgers graduated two established arms in Kiki Pickens and Eva Godwin, leaving Jordy Lefford as the lone returnee with meaningful innings under her belt. That was until Lexi Dulany came over from Hazen and the duo has been one of the best in the state.

“To be honest, I knew who Lexi was but I did not follow her as much at Hazen because we weren’t playing against her, but [before she got here] I did not realize how good she actually is,” Flenor said. “Giving her some time off with having Jordy is really what Lexi needed. I think if you asked her that she would say the same thing.

“Lexi is more east, west and down, Jordy is mostly up,” Flenor said. “Those two together have worked so well, they are also best friends off the field.”


JR Kyleigh Wooten – .420 BA/ .607 OBP/ .580 SLG, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 18 RBI

JR Lexi Dulany – .398 BA/ .435 OBP/ .542 SLG, 8 2B, 2 3B, 26 RBI // 10-3, 68 IP, 75 K, 1.75 ERA

JR Phoebe Caldwell – .394 BA/ .500 OBP/ .470 SLG, 2 2B, 1 3B, 19 RBI

SO Frankie Caldwell – .346 BA/ .427 OBP/ .531 SLG, 5 2B, 5 3B, 23 RBI

JR Jordyn Lefford – 7-0, 71 IP, 140 K, 0.89 ERA


Head Coach: Scott Hoffman

The Lady Yellowjackets are back in the state championship for the first time since they won four consecutive titles from 2016-19, and it will be the first appearance under Coach Hoffman. Hoffman took over a squad in 2022 that was littered with young talent and led them to the semifinals, then Sheridan gutted its way to the quarterfinals during an injury-riddled 2023 campaign.

Those youngsters from 2022 have grown up and been the force all year they were expected to be as they have not lost to Class 5A competition.

“It has been exciting to see the kids climb over the years,” Hoffman said. “We have been chasing Benton and Greene County Tech, now we have the bull’s eye on our back. We respect everybody, but we are ranked No. 1 now so I told the kids to lean into it. You are going to get everyone’s best shot, so you give it right back and it is going to make us better.

“There are going to be people who praise you, people who doubt you and you have got to stay focused on what we’re trying to accomplish so lean into it.”

The Lady ‘Jackets reeled off 19 straight wins to start the year before falling in a road contest against Bryant, in which Sheridan led until the sixth inning. That preceded a one-run loss to Bauxite. It clearly struck a nerve as they have won eight straight heading into Thursday, including back-to-back walk-off wins by a single run in the past two games.

“I think [losing to Bauxite] woke our kids up to like ‘hey we have to bring it’ because we brought it against Bryant and got beat, but we did not bring it against Bauxite,” Hoffman said. “Since then we have handled business. It has not always been pretty, but we have gotten it done.”


JR Mary Lem – .571 BA/ .634 OBP/ .940 SLG, 13 2B, 4 HR, 45 RBI

SO Skylar Sterritt – .553 BA/ .643 OBP/ 1.132 SLG, 6 3B, 10 HR, 27 RBI, 44 SB

SR Chloe Ashmead – .407 BA/ .469 OBP/ .419 SLG, 22 RBI, 16 SB

JR Cooper Terry – 11-1, 0.50 ERA, 64 K, .127 BAA // .362 BA/ .447 OBP/ .425 SLG, 5 2B, 18 RBI

SR Callie Kilburn – 12-0, 1.36 ERA, 83 K, .177 BAA // .362 BA/ .463 OBP/ .425 SLG, 27 RBI, 11 SB


When: Friday 10 a.m.

Teams: Farmington (22-5) vs. Pea Ridge (25-5)


Head Coach: Jason Shirey

Heralded Coach Jason Shirey is back in the finals for the first time with Farmington after taking over the program in 2022. The former Arkansas softball assistant previously led Fayetteville for 14 seasons from 2004-2017, winning back-to-back state championships with the Lady Purple Dogs in 2006-07 and has Farmington back in the championship game for the first time since 2019.

Due to the depth of the 4A-1 conference , which has proven all year it is the best league in Class 4A, it was somewhat of a mirage that Farmington finished with the fourth and final seed in the 4A-North Regional Tournament, considering it was to conference foes. Two of the Lady Cardinals’ five losses this season were to Pea Ridge.

“The finishes [in the regular season, district tournament and regional tournament] flip-flopped at each stage and that indicates how difficult it was and how everyone was playing,” Shirey said. “You had to play good that night and then we had a really good weekend at the state tournament.”

What was most impressive is Shirey did not have his full team until mid-March. Two of his top stars, daughter Reese Shirey and Morgan Uher, were with Farmington’s basketball team through the first 10 or so days of March as that squad completed a back-to-back state title run. The following weekend, Reese Shirey and Uher were key in the Lady Cardinals winning their own Farmington Tournament in walk-off fashion over Springdale Har-Ber.

“Reese and Morgan joining us provided a couple of more options and really lengthened the lineup out and also solidified our defense,” Shirey said. “We did not even really set a lineup until after the regional tournament, we have still been tinkering the whole time.

“As we continued to get into everything, we have continued to see what we needed to see with kids getting enough at-bats. We have also been fortunate, knock on wood, to not have many injuries and all of these kids are able to play multiple spots so the flexibility afforded to us as coaches has been quite nice.”

Kennedy Griggs has been a mainstay in the circle for Shirey, but the continued progression of freshman Morgan Reaves has also provided Farmington with more opportunities.

“The emergence of Morgan has allowed us a few more options and it is quite the luxury to have,” Shirey said. “She is pretty unflappable, even-keeled. She does not get too high or low, but one of the things that helps is the age of the kids around her. They have been through the wars and she knows that she can do what she has to do as a pitcher and someone is going to catch the ball.”


SR Reese Shirey – .534 BA/ .553 OBP/ .625 SLG, 8 2B, 17 RBI

JR Morgan Uher – .466 BA/ .500 OBP/ .909 SLG, 10 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 35 RBI

SR Amia Carr – .427 BA/ .471 OBP/ .520 SLG, 5 2B, 1 3B, 19 RBI

FR Morgan Reaves – 10-1, 78.1 IP, 43 K, 2.95 ERA, .267 BAA

SR Kennedy Griggs – 12-4, 77.2 IP, 55 K, 3.79 ERA, .270 BAA


Head Coach: Josh Reynolds

Immediately after falling 5-1 in last year’s state championship game to Gravette, Coach Josh Reynolds got right to the point.

“To those returning, we issued the challenge of getting us back here,” he said before hopping on the bus to leave Farris Field.

The Lady Blackhawks accepted that challenge and thrived against a brutal schedule that included playing against three of this season’s state finalists. This will be the Lady Blackhawks’ third trip to the final round in the past four seasons, but they are still aiming to win the program’s first state title. They will have to conquer 4A-1 foe Farmington to do so, something they have already done twice in 2024.

“It is a good and bad thing [playing against a conference opponent],” Reynolds said. “Good because you’re familiar with them, bad because they’re familiar with you. I know I am biased, but I believe the 4A-1 conference is the best in 4A but by having three of the four semifinalists I think that stat backs up my claim.

“Coach Shirey does a really good job over there. They go out and schedule good non-conference, we schedule a good non-conference, so you hope the whole body of work gets put together and we score one more run than they do.”

University of Central Arkansas commit Emory Bowlin has established herself as one of the state’s best, if not the best, arms. She has been on fire all year, but really seemed to take another step forward in mid-April when she threw three complete shutouts in two days over Class 6A’s Rogers Heritage and Rogers – a 6A semifinalist – and Houston Christian (Texas). She struck out 51 batters on the weekend.

“The two biggest areas that she has grown is her mentality and we also revamped our offseason program,” Reynolds said. “We went out and hired Ben Witcher as our strength and conditioning coach, he has been able to make our kids bigger and stronger which has paid off.”

One Lady Blackhawk who tends to get overlooked is senior leader Callie Cooper behind the dish. She is the lone player on the roster who will have played in all three of those state championship matchups with Pea Ridge since 2021.

“Freshman year Callie was a typical freshman, and I mean that in a good way,” Reynolds said. “But she manages the pitching staff. We throw two kids in varsity and she knows what buttons to push, what makes them go. We tease her all the time to control her pitchers and just to have a senior behind the plate who has been there and done it makes it easier on our side.”


JR Emory Bowlin – 24-3, 156 IP, 272 K, 0.98 ERA // .432 BA/ .449 OBP/ .727 SLG, 11 2B, 5 HR, 28 RBI

FR Lexi Vigil – .453 BA/ .475 OBP/ .484 SLG, 1 HR, 12 RBI

SR Callie Cooper – .382 BA/ .477 OBP/ .438 SLG, 5 2B, 22 RBI

SO Zaylee Warden – .356 BA/ .352 OBP/ .558 SLG, 7 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 35 RBI

FR Makenzie Whalen – .326 BA/ .368 OBP/ .863 SLG, 8 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 24 RBI


When: Saturday 7 p.m.

Teams: Hackett (27-3) vs. Lincoln (28-10)


Head Coach: Jeff Oxford

Following back-to-back semifinal finishes the past two seasons, the Lady Hornets got the monkey off of their back and earned their first trip to the state finals in school history. The 3-1, nine-inning win over two-time defending runner-up Atkins was extra fulfilling for third-year Coach Jeff Oxford after being so close in consecutive attempts.

“Both of the semifinal losses to Ashdown [2022] and Booneville [2023] were pretty tough so we have been focused all year to get back and take advantage of the opportunity if we got it again,” Oxford said. “It was a great, tough softball game on Saturday against Atkins but we managed to find a way at the end and pull through.”

Despite seeing Lincoln multiple times in 2024, Oxford knows you can never let your guard down.

“It is really a tough situation because last year we beat Booneville twice before the semifinals and, they never said it, but I think our girls were kind of looking past them,” Oxford said. “I do not think I am going to have any problem keeping them focused because we really know Lincoln.”

Also, Lincoln previously had Hackett’s number as the Lady Hornets had not conquered Lincoln under Oxford until this season. Not only did Hackett win all three contests, it was in convincing fashion by a combined 19-2 runs.

“They had beaten us four games in a row up until this year,” Oxford said. “We are all well-aquainted, know each other well and the kids are friends so it is just going to be a fun game.”


JR Morgan Coryell – .500 BA/ .520 OBP/ .911 SLG, 20 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 35 RBI

SO Michaelyn “Mikey” Freeman – .571 BA/ .604 OBP/ .990 SLG, 8 2B, 6 3B, 7 HR, 46 RBI

JR Kenzie Freeman – .537 BA/ .598 OBP/ .863 SLG, 16 2B, 5 HR, 53 RBI // 28-2, 170 IP, 256 K, 0.41 ERA, .111 BAA

JR Lilly Oxford – .509 BA/ .529 OBP/ .682 SLG, 11 2B, 4 3B, 36 RBI

SR Lani Coryell – .422 BA/ .491 OBP/ .644 SLG, 6 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 21 RBI


Head Coach: Britt Engel

There was no shortage of motivation for the Lady Wolves following a disappointing first round state tournament exit in 2023 and they used that drive to earn their first ever state finals bid.

Lincoln gritted its way through some early season injuries while playing a challenging non-conference schedule and won 15 of 17 contests from late March through the first weekend in May, but they were blanked by Hackett in the 3A-1 Regional Final. This was shortly after the Lady Wolves escaped Booneville in an intense 3-2 triumph that went into extra innings. They rallied together and got it done in the state tournament, resulting in a spot not many thought they would be.

“Everything still does not feel real because this has been something we’ve worked so hard for,” Engel said. “Now that it is here it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s real’, but it is just so cool with the amount of community support we have received and all of the people who have reached out.

“I learned this week how hard it is to get there. It takes team unity and we have not had a team that has been more together or more supportive of each other than we have this year.”

Morgan Rice, Kristen Rhine and Hannah Remington are just a few who have been key contributors, all batting over .400, while Amber Bryant has been the No. 2 in the circle and filled multiple roles as a four-year starter, but there is no question that everything starts with Mississippi State commit Brinkley Moreton. Moreton, who credits much of her production to her battery mate, Addie Pershall, is one of the nation’s top 2025 prospects.

“The relationship between Addie and Brink is the ideal pitcher-catcher relationship and it is something we have not had in the past,” Engel said. “Addie is very selfless and puts what Brink and the team needs over herself.”


JR Brinkley Moreton – .468 BA/ .606 OBP/ .957 SLG, 9 2B, 11 3B, 5 HR, 36 RBI // 16-5, 123 IP, 228 K, 1.71 ERA, .184 BAA

SO Morgan Rice – .422 BA/ .514 OBP/ .667 SLG, 11 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 40 RBI

SR Kristen Rhine – .406 BA/ .471 OBP/ .519 SLG, 10 2B, 1 3B, 35 RBI

SO Hannah Remington – .402 BA/ .455 OBP/ .536 SLG, 10 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 21 RBI

SR Amber Bryant – 11-3, 75 IP, 86 K, 0.84 ERA, .218 BAA


When: Saturday 1 p.m.

Teams: Mansfield (23-1) vs. Riverside (27-1)


Head Coach: Donnie Eveld

Back for the third time in the past four seasons, and second consecutive year, Eveld and Co. remember how close they were from walking away with the gold trophy in a 1-0 loss to Riverside this time last season. That was also two years removed from being walked off in the championship game by Tuckerman.

“The girls have been looking forward to the possible rematch,” Eveld said. “This has been our goal, as with every team, to be playing the end of the year in the finals and they have been focused. This is one of the most level-headed teams we’ve had, nothing really bothers them. They just keep playing and doing what they do.”

The Lady Tigers did have to replace their outfield, as well as catcher Brooklyn Adams, but they have worked through some injuries while also relying underclassmen who have filled their roles well. University of Nebraska – Omaha signee Alyson Edwards has been the ace for Mansfield over the past four seasons and it all starts with her in the circle, as well as at the plate. With all she has accomplished on the diamond, plus in volleyball and basketball, Edwards has established herself as one of the premier multi-sport athletes in Arkansas regardless of classification. She was outstanding in last season’s finals, striking out 16 batters while allowing only three hits.

“I have never seen an athlete with the drive and determination to be the best,” Eveld said. “Her work ethic is crazy and she does not give in. When things are not going her way in the circle she is going to find a way to get it fixed.”

On the opposite side, Womack was just a shade better statistically than Edwards in the 2023 championship, punching out 18 batters and allowed two hits. Like Edwards, Womack has again been outstanding in 2024.

“The thing about great pitchers is they have great movement and velocity, but when you approach a player like Womack you know they are going to be around the plate,” Eveld said. “You look for that ball that is in the zone, however many you get. Those are the ones you will have to be ready to hit when they are there.”


SR Alyson Edwards – 23-1, 140 IP, 304 K, 0.40, .084 BAA // .620 BA/ .703 OBP/ 1.127, 12 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 31 RBI

JR Ambria Whittaker – .391 BA/ .468 OBP/ .420 SLG, 2 2B, 27 RBI

SR Kynslee Ward – .381 BA/ .441 OBP/ .607 SLG, 8 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 17 RBI

SR Cole Smith – .342 BA/ .390 OBP/ .382 SLG, 2 2B, 24 RBI

SR Kinley Vanmeter – .317 BA/ .377 OBP/ .317 SLG, 9 RBI


Head Coach: TJ Eakins

Riverside came into this season in a much different position that it had ever been accustomed to. They knew as the defending state champions that every opponent would bring their best shot, but with the exception of Class 5A semifinalist Greene County Tech the Lady Rebels have won their other 27 contests in mostly flawless fashion.

“We talked about from the start that we were going to have a target on our back and we will have to be ready to go,” Coach TJ Eakins said. “They have handled it well. Knock on wood we have only had really one bad game and one other bad inning. The girls have handled the pressure well and done what they do best, play softball.”

Klaire Womack was one of eight starters who returned from last season’s title run and was named the Most Valuable player of the 2023 state tournament. Womack has devastated opposing batters again in 2024, averaging over two strikeouts per inning while also batting over .400.

“Klaire is just such a competitor,” Eakins said. “She goes out there and she battles, just does her thing day in and out. Sometimes I try to convince her that she has a good defense behind her and it is okay to use them every now and then. Our girls know she is going to battle and they want to battle for her.”

Alyson Edwards did just about all she could in the circle in last year’s matchup and had a chance late to help with her bat before Eakins made the diligent decision to intentionally walk her. By this point Riverside knows what she brings to the table.

“What a great player, three out of four years she’s been to the state finals and that’s just in softball,” Eakins said. “That’s amazing. We got to see her last year and we know what she is capable of, plus we got to see her some last Saturday. Just an amazing pitcher, but we are going to prepare like we prepared to face [Arkansas commit Lillie-Faye] McWhorter or anybody else and hopefully a few things bounce our way.”


JR Kaylee Cox – .523 BA/ .574 OBP/ .727 SLG, 6 2B, 6 3B, 35 RBI

JR Katie Ridge – .460 BA/ .520 OBP/ .897 SLG, 5 2B, 11 HR, 37 RBI // 27.1 IP, 3-0, 31 K, .270 BAA

SO Carly Jo Womack – .458 BA/ .557 OBP/ .597 SLG, 7 2B, 1 HR, 29 RBI

JR Annalee Qualls – .415 BA/ .481 OBP/ .766 SLG, 17 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 17 RBI

JR Klaire Womack – .426 BA/ .494 OBP/ .691 SLG, 5 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 20 RBI // 129.1 IP, 27-1, 292 K, 0.93 ERA, .134 BAA

FR Blakely Biggers – .412 BA/ .534 OBP/ .456 SLG, 3 2B, 23 RBI


When: Thursday 1 p.m.

Teams: Scranton (15-10) vs. Taylor (25-2)


Head Coach: Whitney Bateman

Prior to last week, nobody would have predicted Scranton could make it to the state championship game. Except Scranton.

Whitney Bateman, who is in her second season leading the Lady Rockets, made it a priority to put her team through a challenging schedule when she took over last year. Similar to 2023, Scranton got off to a rough start this season against a tough slate as the Lady Rockets were 2-10 through March. Bateman credits the competition they have faced in Van Buren’s River City Rumble Tournament over the past two seasons that helped turn the momentum.

“The last two years we have gone to that Van Buren Tournament and we knew going in that it was the toughest competition that we are going to see, so it is all about being mentally tough,” Bateman said. “We know that if we stay tough in games then there is nothing that we can not face.”

The Lady Rockets have backed up their coach’s statement. Over the past two seasons, Scranton is 22-3 following the River City Rumble, including a perfect 14-0 this season. What makes it even more impressive is this program literally started from scratch prior to the 2023 season after not fielding a team in 2022. That all included Bateman rounding up an entirely new team, along with Bateman herself stepping into a softball coaching role in any capacity for the first time.

“It is really just still unreal and I am pinching myself daily,” Bateman said regarding the past week. “The girls have really taken on that pressure and they just excel. It has been fantastic to watch these girls grow from a young team to who they are now and it is going to be fantastic to see them grow in the years to come.”


SO DeLaney Mainer – 11-8, 105.2 IP, 170 K, 2.78 ERA // .500 BA/ .533 OBP/ .732 SLG, 12 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 35 RBI

JR Natalie Miller – .425 BA/ .440 OBP/ .600 SLG, 6 2B, 4 3B, 28 RBI

FR Katie Vonderheide – .362 BA/ ,511 OBP/ .507 SLG, 4 2B, 3 3B, 12 RBI

SO Addie Layes – .350 BA/ .395 OBP/ .475 SLG, 1 2B, 2 3B, 9 RBI

SO Emily Kremers – .350 BA/ .418 OBP/ .383 SLG, 2 2B, 16 RBI


Head Coach: Courtney McHenry

There is not much to be said about Taylor that has not been mentioned already. The Lady Tigers have set the standard for Class 1A and are 27 outs away from standing alone as the only program in the history of Arkansas Prep Softball to win seven consecutive state championships. Coincidentally, the first of the current six straight titles was earned in a 3-0 win over Scranton in the 2017 1A championship game

A victory would also give Taylor a state-leading 10 titles. Elisa Millican built the program, Adam Camp took it to another level and Courtney McHenry has sustained it. Though proud of the accomplishments, McHenry mentioned the pressure that comes with immense success.

“It is a blessing and a tough situation at the same time,” McHenry said. “It is not just like ‘Oh, Taylor shows up and they are at the finals’ and our game [a 1-0 walk-off win over Shirley] Saturday showed us. It is hard work and I do not think some realize how much these girls do year-round and the behind the scenes stuff that it takes to make that happen.”

Pressure is nothing new to McHenry at this point as she is now going for her third ring in as many years as Taylor’s head coach. Her team has also not allowed high expectations to affect them.

“I was worried about the pressure of that seventh in a row, but they have been positive and enjoyed the season,” McHenry said.

The Lady Tigers also swept fellow school district rival Bradley in three games this season after falling to them twice in 2023, something that McHenry feels gave the Lady Tigers a sense of ease.

“It might help that we did beat Bradley,” McHenry added with a laugh. “Last year we struggled because we let them get to us twice.”


SR Madison Lindsey – .500 BA/ .609 OBP, 3 HR, 33 RBI

SR Makayla Downs – .460 BA/ .532 OBP, 5 HR, 32 RBI

FR Macy Downs – .407 BA/ .486 OBP, 2 HR, 26 RBI

SR Heidi May – .375 BA/ .500 OBP, 7 HR, 37 RBI

JR Ayla Buford – 124.1 IP, 149 K, 1.13 ERA, .150 BAA // .395 BA/ .505 OBP/ 6 HR/ 27 RBI

(Cover photo by Justin Manning)