The secret to post-season success for the Viola Lady Longhorns this year has been simple.
If you don't allow your opponent to score any runs, you can't get beat.
Going back to their romp through the regional tournament brackets this year, the Lady Horns have given up just five hits and no runs, thanks to the one-two punch of hurlers Lindsey Barker and Chelsea Taylor, as they made their way through the state tournament field.
Yet, the deeper into the post-season you play, the harder this is to maintain as the competition level rises with each tournament game.
Advancing to the finals of the Class A State Tournament at Lady Razorback Yard in Fayetteville May 8, Viola saw a mirror-image of themselves in their finals opponent; the Lockesburg Lady Darters.
Scoring 22 runs in the first two rounds of the state tournament in Pine Bluff, the hard-hitting Lady Darters were also equipped to match Viola in the pitching department.
In the end, Lockesburg broke open a tight affair with a pair of runs in the top of the seventh to deny the Lady Longhorns a state championship, giving the Lady Darters the Class A title with a 4-1 victory.
"They just had the key hits today," Viola Head Coach Larry Luther said. "We just couldn't get them when we needed them, and that was the difference."
Lockesburg wasted little time proving they could hit, as Dallas Lee led off the game with a triple to left off Lady Longhorn starter Barker.
Lee later came around to score the Lady Darters' first run of the day on a pitch in the dirt, staking Lockesburg to a quick 1-0 lead.
Barker gave up three hits and two walks, while fanning a pair in four innings of work in the title game loss.
Taylor reached base for Viola on a walk in the bottom of the first, and she later stole second before being stranded as a couple of strikeouts from Lady Darter starter Samantha Jones ended the frame.
Lockesburg tacked on another run in the top of the third as a bloop hit to short center from Kayle Helms drove in a run, putting the Lady Darters on top 2-0.
Viola looked to answer in the bottom of the frame, as Cortney Winter drew a walk and Taylor made it on base for the second time in the game.
However, the Lady Horn threat was snuffed out as Winter and Taylor were left on base as the inning ended.
"We just couldn't advance our runners today," Luther said. "We had a couple of chances to bunt, but we couldn't get it down to move them over. That cost us at least one run early in the game."
Viola did post their first run of the day in the bottom of the fourth.
Meghan Bruns hit a hard shot to left to get the Lady Horns going, before a fielder's choice from Melinda Guffey moved her to second.
Bruns wasn't on second long as Kyla Smoot stepped up and jacked a double to left-center that plated Bruns and cut Lockesburg's lead in half, 2-1.
Taylor came on in relief of Barker and retired the Lady Darters in order in the fifth and sixth, needing only three pitches to pull the trick in the latter frame.
Unfortunately for Viola, things kind of fell apart in the visitor's half of the seventh.
Katrina Parish reached base with a double down the third base line, and Jessie Maynard got on board thanks to a Viola fielding error one batter later.
Brittany Martz then delivered the fatal blow with a shot to center that brought two runs home to make it 4-1 Lockesburg.
The Lady Longhorns went down in order in the bottom of the seventh, as the Lady Darters claimed the title with a three-run win.
"Both our girls did a good job pitching. Lockesburg just put the ball into play when they needed, and that was the game," said Luther. "They stepped up and did the job, and we just couldn't."
In semi-final action at the Regional Park in Pine Bluff May 5, the Lady Horns blanked Taylor 4-0 to punch their ticket to Fayetteville.
Barker earned the victory by tossing six innings, giving up two hits and fanning three. Taylor shut the door on the Lady Tigers in the seventh, retiring the side in order.
Smoot, Gina Hodges and Winter had six of Viola's 10 hits on the afternoon.
Smoot logged a double and RBI, while Hodges also had a run-batted-in.
Bruns had an RBI, and Jamie Dailey, Guffey and Taylor all added to the Lady Longhorn hit parade.
The Lady Longhorns opened their stay in Pine Bluff with a 10-zip, run-rule victory over the Weiner Lady Cardinals May 4.
Weiner had no answers for Taylor as Viola's fire-baller fanned 11 Lady Cardinals while giving up two hits in five innings of work.
Taylor fanned Weiner in order in both the fourth and fifth innings, as she ended the contest with six consecutive strikeouts.
Up 1-0 after the second inning, Viola added four runs in both the third and fourth innings, before tacking on one additional run in the bottom of the fifth to put the game on ice.
Dailey had a big day at the plate with tahree ribbies on a double, while Winter posted two hits and a run-batted-in. Kyla Batterton added a hit, while Guffey had two RBIs. Bruns and Smoot had an RBI apiece for Viola.