SHERWOOD — Greenbrier and Vilonia moved on in the 5A state softball tournament Thursday with different styles of victories in first-round games at the Kevin McReynolds Complex.
Vilonia, the defending state champion, overcame an early 1-0 deficit and took control of the game in the third to pull away toa 6-1 victory over Wynne. The Lady Eagles will play a quarterfinal game at 10 a.m. Friday against Beebe, a team they have defeated twice.
Greenbrier, the top seed, grabbed a 4-0 lead early and held on for a 5-3 victory over Greene County Tech. The Lady Panthers will play a 5:30 p.m. semifinal against either Magnolia or host Sylvan Hills.
"That was a big win for us in the first round," said Greenbrier coach Brian Butler, whose team lost to Vilonia in last year’s state title game. "They are a very good team. It was a tough first-round game. We had actually planned on meeting them later on.’
The Lady Panthers got three hits to score three runs in the first and added a run in the second to give Jaylee Engelkes a 4-0 lead.
The Lady Eagles shut Greenbrier down after that and had threats in almost every inning, forcing the Lady Panthers to make some outstanding defensive plays to nurse a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the sixth. Maddie Garrett’s RBI single in the sixth gave the Lady Panthers a cushion.
"The (the Lady Eagles) hit the ball well," Butler said. "Jaylee is tough when she keeps the ball down. When she gets it up, she can get in toruble."
Mackenzie Shannon was 3 for 3 at the top of the order for Greenbrier. "She’s been hitting the ball well and she gives our offense a real boost when she can get on," Butler said.
With Vilonia trailing 2-1 in the third Sydney Johnson’s two-run double followed by a passed ball gave the Lady Eagles the lead for good in the 6-1 victory.
A squeeze bunt by Abby Hightower upped the lead to 4-1 in the fourth. The Lady Eagles scored on a wild pitch and a passed ball in the fifth.
"We got some timely hits and played some good defense behind our three pitchers," said Vilonia coach Kevin Sullivan about his young team that is going for its third straight title. "We graduated eight players, six who played in the field and zero pitching wins coming back, so it was a nice first-round win.
"We still have four or five girls who don’t know anything but state finals, but that’s difficult to do."
A short distance down the hill from the softball complex, Paxton Wallace overcame an early case of wildness to lead the Panthers to a 7-4 victory over Wynne in their baseball first-round game.
Wallace allowed three hits and struck out four over five innings before Spencer Sutterfield came on for the save.
Hunter Millikin’s two-double in the sixth gave the Panthers a cushion. Wallace was 2 for 3 at the plate. Kane Thornton was 3 for 3.
Greenbrier will play host Sylvan Hills at 10 a.m Friday in the quarterfinals.
At the alternate field at DuPree Park in Jacksonville, Vilonia’s baseball team surged to a 9-3 victory over Nettleton.
The Eagles will play Pulaski Academy or White Hall at 5:30 p.m. Friday.