By TONY EIERDAM
When head coach David Tarver helped put together the Tri County Rotation Softball Tournament along with Graham and Springtown, he wanted the teams that were going to play in Mineral Wells to be top-notch competition.
Thursday afternoon in the opener of the tournament’s leg at Kessler Field, Tarver got what he wanted.
Paced by a one-hitter from Iowa Park pitcher Peyton Helton, the Lady Hawks defeated the Mineral Wells Lady Rams, 5-0, in a battle of two teams that could potentially hook up in the playoffs.
The Lady Rams (12-6-1) were to have played Abilene Wylie later Thursday, but that game was not finished until after press time.
The tournament continues today as MWHS will face Celina at noon. The Lady Rams will conclude tournament play at noon Saturday against Lubbock Cooper and later that day at 4 p.m. against Brownwood.
All of the teams playing this year are either state ranked or made the playoffs last year, or both.
“This is what we wanted,” Tarver said. “This is the kind of competition we want to play in order to better prepare for the playoffs.
“Most of these teams went three or four rounds in the playoffs last year, and you can only get better playing this type of competition.”
Helton allowed just one walk while striking out five in seven innings.
Lady Rams pitcher Hope Patterson also had a solid outing in the circle. The sophomore allowed four earned runs on six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.
“Hope pitched well,” Tarver said. “She was throwing her rise ball and screw ball high in the strike zone, and those are hard pitches to hit.
“For the most part she kept the hitters off balance.”
Iowa Park scored on an unearned run in the third inning to take a 1-0 lead and added a pair of runs in the fourth to increase its lead to 3-0.
Meanwhile, Helton was having her way with the Lady Rams. Through four innings she allowed just one base runner and pitched to one batter above the minimum.
The Lady Hawks extended their lead to 5-0 when Baylee Voigt smashed a towering two-run home run into a stiff wind that carried well beyond the left-field fence.
The Lady Rams broke up Helton’s no-hitter when Makayla Nance lined a single to right field. Nance advanced to second on a fielder’s choice, and when Reagan Patterson drew a walk, Nance advanced to third base on a wild pitch.
But with two runners on and two out, Helton got out of a jam when Hope Patterson’s long drive to center field was caught for the third out.
Helton sent the Lady Rams down in order in the seventh to preserve the win.
By TONY EIERDAM
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