Vilonia’s Lady Eagles, after clearing some major hurdles, are heading into the state 5A championship softball game under a full head of steam.
Vilonia will play White Hall for the title at 3 p.m. Saturday at the University of Arkansas’ Bogle Field.
"We’re a hot team at the time you need to be a hot team," said Vilonia coach Calvin Robinette.
He said the first major leap occurred on the last day of the regular season when the Lady Eagles met perennial state power Greenbrier in a doubleheader for the 5A West title. The Lady Panthers got the split they need to claim the championship but Vilonia ended their 33-game conference winning streak in the first game.
"Greenbrier has been dominating in our conference the last few years, but our girls felt we could play with them," Robinette said. "To beat them in one game was a big confidence-booster going into the state tournament."
The next major hurdle came against Wynne, the other team (besides Greenbrier) that had won a state championship in the last two years.
In the semifinal of the state tournament at Wynne, the Lady Eagles prevailed against the Lady Yellowjackets and their ace pitcher, Claire Clark, 4-3, in eight innings.
"She’s a great pitcher but we got the big hit we needed to," said Robinette, noting a three-run home run by Whitney Wade in the eighth provided the winning runs.
"That was a great victory for our program," Robinette added. "We’ve gone to the state tournament every year since 2002 and we always seem to get to the quarterfinals or semifinals in state but couldn’t get over the hump. This year, we were facing Wynne at Wynne, where they have great community support. They let out school that afternoon and probably had 1,000 fans out there."
Leading 4-1 in the eighth, the Lady Eagles still didn’t have it easy. After Wynne scored two runs, Colleen Farris threw out a runner at third to end the game.
Vilonia, behind pitcher Whitney Price, downed Alma, 3-1, to reach the championship game.
"Whitney was injured last year but she has really stepped it up," Robinette said. "But we’ve going dual pitchers. Without what Danielle Netherlain (8-3) did on the mound for us earlier, I don’t think we get there (the championship game). It was a joint effort. Whitney got hot at the end and that’s why we used her the most."
The Lady Eagles are 23-8.
"We’ve played good ball all along and I think it’s because of our senior leadership," said Robinette. "We have great team chemistry. It’s not one individual, just a total team effort. The girls are playing together, having fun, the chemistry is there and they really believe in themselves."