GENOA, Ark.—Genoa Central's softball team could go all the way.
The Lady Dragons seek their first 3A state softball championship Saturday in Fayetteville. Genoa Central, the No. 4 seed, will battle Rose Bud, the No. 1 seed, for the title.
"We have kinda just put it all together," Genoa Central head coach Richard McMillan said. "It was what we had expected all year. For a while, it hadn't been what we hoped. I told the kids, 'It's not about where you start but where you finish.'
"We kept plugging along during the season. We had some injuries and some internal things that we had to get worked out. We didn't give up, and the girls kept fighting. The kids are starting to see their rewards for putting in the hard work and the time."
The Dragons (17-15) tangle with the Lady Ramblers (34-1) at 12:30 p.m. at the University of Arkansas' Bogle Park on Saturday.
Genoa Central defeated Harrisburg, 10-4, in the first round, shut out Mansfield, 11-0, in the quarterfinals, and punched its ticket to the finals with a 5-2 victory over Paris in the semifinals.
Raegan Keith, a senior, will start in the circle for the Dragons, and freshman Josie Walls is the catcher.
Senior Kelsey Mattson is the first baseman, senior Madison Banister plays second, senior Savanah Binkley plays shortstop, and junior Olivia Cross is at third.
Senior Braylee Hagan is in right field, sophomore Kallie Minter is in center, and sophomore Faith Green plays left.
"I have been coaching for a while, and I've had a lot of success in my career," McMillan said. "But I am humble enough to know that a coach has to have kids with talent along with parental support. It's not just the coaching.
"A coach has to have support from the administration. A lot of times, they say that they will support you until it comes to money or time. Genoa Central is one of those places where they support us and stand behind us. We have great community support. I am fortunate to have a good assistant coach. I think those are the keys to being successful."
McMillan was the head softball coach at Foreman for four years and won a 2A state championship in 2014 with an 8-5 victory over Junction City. The Lady Gators finished with a record of 31-4.
The Dragons finished as the No. 4 seed after going 1-3 in the 3A regional tournament. Genoa Central defeated Rison, 8-4, but were defeated by Ashdown, 6-1, and Fouke, 6-5 in nine innings.
"I am not sure if many people know this but we had to play back-to-back games in the regional tournament. We played Ashdown and then we played Fouke. It totaled 15 innings of softball. It was a brutal day for us. The kids had a lot of heart, and they fought hard. As long as we are in, then we knew we had a chance."