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Softball: Stafford’s late home run lifts Van Buren

After pitching seven strong innings, Tori Stafford made sure she did not have to pitch an eighth against Springdale.

Stafford’s walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh lifted Van Buren to a 4-1 7A/6A-West win Tuesday at the Pointers’ softball complex.

The win keeps the Pointers (14-3, 3-0) just behind Bentonville (4-0) in conference play.

“A win is a win in this league,” Van Buren coach Andy Williams said. “We never panicked. We made some big plays defensively.”

Stafford pitched a complete-game, three-hitter while also getting three hits at the plate for the Pointers. On the mound, she walked none and struck out seven.

“Tori pitched well tonight,” Williams said. “She made one bad pitch to one of their best hitters and she knocked it out of the park.”

It was her offensive heroics, though, that clinched the win.

In the bottom of the seventh, Ashlee Deffenbaugh and Breanna Vest reached on consecutive singles. After a fielder’s choice grounder by Ashton Sangster forced out Deffenbaugh at third, Stafford came to the plate and powered a 3-0 pitch over the fence in left-center field that ended the game.

“I told her when time was called and the count 3-0 that (Springdale) was not going to walk her,” Williams said. “I told her to look for a good pitch to hit. She got all of the next pitch. She had to get all of it to hit it out of left-center with the wind blowing like it was.”

Van Buren got eight hits off Springdale’s Chelsea Baldwin, but could never get the big one until Stafford’s game-winning blast. Baylor Miles added a pair of hits for the Pointers.

“We’re not swinging the bats well right now,” Williams said. “The wind (blowing strong from left field to right) also knocked two balls down that might have left the park early in the game. ”

Lady Bulldogs coach Ashley Kemp said despite her team committing three errors, the defense was solid enough.

“We just gave up one big hit,” said Kemp. “We made some errors, but we made some big plays on defense to get out of innings.”

Van Buren scored an unearned run in the bottom of the first. Ashley Sangster reached on a two-base error, stole third and scored on Emilee Aaron’s sacrifice fly to left.

After getting out of no out, runners on second and third jam in the first inning, Stafford cruised until the sixth inning. With one out in the Springdale sixth, Kelcee Thompson crushed a homer to right-center to tie the game at 1-1.