Five trips to the 7A state softball championship. Three consecutive titles. Two runner-up finishes.

Even though the North Little Rock Lady Charging Wildcats lost, 11-3, for the second year in a row to the Bentonville Lady Tigers last Friday, Coach Jason Houle said the Lady Wildcats (21-7) don’t need to hang their heads.

“Not many teams get a shot five years in a row and get a trophy,” Houle said. “I told the seniors out of the last five years, we are 3-2 and still on the winning side in the grand scheme of things. The younger girls know what it takes to get back, and I feel confident we’ll get back.”

Bentonville (30-1) took a 3-1 lead after one inning, and North Little Rock tied the score at 3-all with two runs in the second inning. In the bottom of the third, the Lady Tigers put the contest out of reach with a five-run inning which included two runs scored on an error. They added three more runs in the fourth.

“We started out pretty good and like the last three years started off with a triple,” Houle said. “After we tied it at 3-3, we made some errors we could never recover from. Take away one inning, and we played pretty good. You can’t have one bad inning against a good team.”

Senior Reagan Sperling finished with two of the Lady Wildcats’ five hits which included the triple. Her single in the second frame drove in Anna Beaver and knotted the contest at 3.

“(Maddy) Prough is a great pitcher and usually gets 17-18 strikeouts,” Houle said. “I’m glad she didn’t do that but she got us to pop up, and when we did hit it hard, we hit it right to them.”

After losing five seniors, the Lady Wildcats will just have three seniors next year which means the majority of the team is coming back. That means Houle is returning a team who is young but experienced and understands the tradition.

“This was the most improved team from the beginning to the end,” Houle said. “We kept tweaking things to see what we could do and got better and better in spots. We swung the bats in the state tournament and also in the championship.”