By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
After defeating Hartselle in the semifinals, Southside High School’s varsity baseball team had plenty of momentum heading into its Class 5A state championship series against third-ranked Spanish Fort. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they did not have as much momentum as the Toros.
The Toros defeated the Panthers in two games, winning the opener at Patterson Field in Montgomery on May 18, 9-0, and completed the sweep the next morning at Riverwalk Stadium, 6-1, to claim its third consecutive state title.
Braxton Light and Caleb Butler led the second game off with singles, but Southside could not score either runner.
Spanish Fort designated hitter Blaine Crane led the second inning with a single, and scored moments later when teammate Tate Godwin doubled off the top of the left field fence. Will Luft singled to left on a hit-and-run play, scoring Godwin to give the Toros a 2-0 lead.
Southside answered in the third inning. Butler blasted a fastball deep to the left field corner, bouncing it off the foul pole for a home run and closing the gap to 2-1.
Spanish Fort’s offense ignited in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Toros loaded the bases with no outs off one hit and two errors. Luft took a pitch inside-out between the center and right fielders. Luft grunted as he rounded the bases for a triple, earning three RBIs and extending the champs’ lead to 5-1. Andrew Farrell sent a sacrifice fly to left field to score Luft. Spanish Fort led 6-1 at the end of four innings.
Andrew Furhman pitched four innings for Southside, allowing six runs off five hits. Furhman walked four and struck out one. Jesse Fry pitched three two innings for the Panthers, allowing two hits and one walk.
Jesse McCord earned the win for Spanish Fort, hurling a complete game. McCord allowed six hits and one run.
Butler was Southside’s bright spot offensively. The first baseman batted 2-for-3 with a homerun. Light’s first inning single was the Panthers’ only other hit in the game.
Southside finished the season with a 27-17 record, while Spanish Fort finished 37-8.
Southside head coach Blake Bone said he was disappointed with their performance in the championship game, but anticipates a great future for Panther baseball.
“We did a great job all year. We made a great run and I’m proud of what they have accomplished this year. We have a great future in front of us and we are all excited about it. We have a great group of kids and great players. We expect to be back here again next year.”