How do you beat a team on the softball diamond?
The easy answer is, score more runs than your opponent.
While that answer may be simple, when the Izard County Consolidated Lady Cougars are thrown into the mix, that easy answer becomes one heck of a hard chore.
It almost seems this year that the Lady Cougars' mantra is "you're not going to beat us, because you're not going to score any runs."
That's any runs at all.
As in, even one run.
ICC sprinted through the conference ranks with a perfect 10-0 mark this year, not allowing a conference foe to cross the plate once in those 10 games.
Fast forward to the 1A Region 3 Tournament at the Cougar Sports Complex in Brockwell, and the Lady Cougars were at it once again.
ICC opened regional play by hammering Black Rock 15-0 before knocking off Calico Rock 5-0 to earn a spot in the championship game against Viola.
But Viola knew something that ICC's first two regional opponents did not know; how to score runs against the Lady Cougars. They also knew how to defeat ICC, as Viola had been responsible for two of the Lady Cougs' four losses this year.
Although the Lady Longhorns had fallen to ICC in the district tournament finals, Viola had also found a way to cross the plate against the Lady Cougars.
So with both ICC and Viola knowing they had already played their way into invites to the 1A State Tournament, the two sides squared off for the second time in a week, this time with the regional crown on the line.
And though the Lady Horns managed once again to dent the Lady Cougars' scoreless chokehold on their opponents, it was ICC that came out on top with a 6-1, regional-tourney winning victory over Viola.
A big reason for a team's inability to score on ICC (23-4) this season has a lot to do with Lady Cougar ace Sarah Taylor.
Taylor earned the win for ICC by throwing a complete game, giving up just one hit while walking two, hitting one and fanning four. She was named the Regional MVP for her performance in the tourney.
Dedra Johnston, too, has been money on the mound for Viola this year, and save for the top of the third inning, kept ICC from running wild in the regional championship. Johnston, who fanned six while walking four, gave up 11 hits on the afternoon, with six coming in a costly third inning that saw the Lady Cougars cross the plate five times on those six hits and one error.
ICC struck first with Haley Crotts logging the game's first RBI on a hit to center in the top of the second that plated Courtney Blevins (two hits, RBI) to give the Lady Cougars a 1-0 advantage.
Then came the top of the third when things got out of hand for the Lady Horns.
Trace Grinnell jump-started the Lady Cougs with a hit up the middle, followed by a bunt hit by Jenna Irgens (three hits). Lane Norvold reached first on an error to load the bases for ICC with no outs in the frame.
Blevins took advantage of that by dropping a hit into short center that brought Grinnell around to score.
Kailey Moss followed that with a two-RBI shot to left that plated Irgens and Norvold.
Johnston got a popout for the first out to break the string, but ICC hoped right back into scoring mode with a pair of singles.
Brittany Shrable (two hits) drove in Blevins with a base hit, while Taylor pulled the same trick with a hit that scored Moss for ICC's fifth run of the third, pushing the Lady Cougars on top 6-0.
Viola found the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth.
Heather Simmons (hit) led off with a base-on-balls, followed by a hit to right from Misha Batterton.
Elisabeth Collins then dropped down a bunt and reached first safely on a throwing error. Simmons scored on the miscue to make the score 6-1, ICC, after five innings of play.
That five-run cushion turned out to be more than enough for Taylor and the Lady Cougs, as ICC claimed the regional tournament title to go along with its conference and district tournament championships.
Johnston, Leslie Barker, Chasidy Hutson, Micah Thompson and Simmons earned All-Regional Tournament honors for Viola.
Grinnell, Norvold, Irgens and Leathyr Spangler played their way to spots on the All-Regional Tournament for the Lady Cougars.
In the semi-final round April 30, ICC passed Calico Rock 5-0 behind a two-hitter from Taylor. She only allowed the Lady Pirates two hits while walking none.
Ashton Lester took the loss for the Lady Pirates, giving up just three hits while fanning seven, but issuing seven walks for the game.
The Lady Cougars didn't pull any punches when they arrived in Lockesburg, site of the 1A State Softball Tournament.
ICC pushed past Nemo Vista 2-0 in the opening round May 4, and then the next afternoon, May 5, the Lady Cougars outscored Ouachita 5-2 to earn a semi-final berth opposite their old friends from Melbourne, with the winner headed to Fayetteville and a spot in the state finals.