By Chris McCarthy/Editor
The Wildcats probably still don’t know what hit them last Friday (Apr. 19) in the first round of the Class 5A state baseball playoffs.
No. 4 ranked Southside scorched the Scottsboro pitching staff for 25 hits en route to an 8-0. 18-1 first round sweep at Danny League Field. Both games ended in five innings on the 10-run mercy rule.
The Panthers (26-10) advanced to Friday’s best-of-three second round series, where they will host Area 13 rival and Etowah County neighbor Etowah. The No. 7 Blue Devils (27-9) defeated Arab in the first round.
Southside never let the Jackson County squad come up for air, as five Panther pitchers combined to allow just four hits, one run and four walks.
The Wildcats had runners in scoring position only four times and managed just two extra base hits.
Southside head coach Blake Bone noted that the Panthers’ uneven performance in last week’s county tournament seemed to serve as a wake-up call of sorts for the postseason.
“I thought that was kind of a reality check. We had a good couple of days of practice this week, and I thought that our guys came out tonight and executed in all three phases. We worked hard to get prepared, and I think that showed tonight. All in all, I was pleased with our pitching, our hitting and our defense.”
Leading the way at the plate for the Panthers were Blake Devine (5-for-8, two doubles, six RBI, three runs); Brock Love (5-for-6, three RBI, four runs); Hunter Clough (3-for-6, six RBI, three runs); and Kyle Steward (4-for-5, two RBI, three runs).
Andrew Furhman contributed two hits and five runs, while Cody Pylant had a hit and three RBI and Drew Mullinax had a hit and four runs.
Connor Paulson contributed a hit, an RBI and three runs, while Braxton Light and Landon Cunningham each had a hit, and RBI a run scored.
Alex Pondick pitched a gem in game 1, surrendering one hit and no walks while striking out seven in four innings. After a Scottsboro batter reached base on an error in the top of the first, Pondick retired 10 of the next 11 batters, allowing only Collin Warren’s leadoff double in the fourth.
Patrick Lister worked an inning of relief. He allowed a pair of one-out singles before fanning the final two batters.
Meanwhile at the plate, the hosts took a five-run lead in the bottom of the first courtesy of respective RBI base hits from Clough, Love and Devine, an RBI double from Devine and Steward’s sacrifice fly.
Southside continued the barrage in the second, as scores from Paulson, Mullinax, Fuhrman, Pylant, and Love made it 10-0 lead.
Fuhrman came home on an error in the fourth to complete the scoring.
The opener was just a warm-up, as the Panthers offense batted around the order in the first, third and fourth innings.
Base hits from Mullinax, Fuhrman, Devine, Love, Steward and Light contributing to a 6-0 advantage after one inning, while Clough’s three-run double highlighted a six-run third.
Devine’s two-run triple in the fourth helped stake the hosts to a 16-run advantage, while Clough’s RBI single closed out the scoring.
On the mound, Jesse Fry worked the first two innings, allowing one run, one hit and one walk while fanning four.
Fuhrman took over for the third and fourth, retiring the side in order in both innings with three strikeouts.
Love worked a scoreless fifth. Following Brandon McGee’s two-out double in the bottom of the first, Fry, Fuhrman and Love retired the final 13 Wildcat batters.
In light of the score in both games, Bone said that he wanted to get his pitching staff as much work as possible.
“We used most of the guys that’s thrown for us this year, and I wanted to make sure that our guys got some experience pitching in the playoffs so we could get that out of the way. Our younger guys got a feel of the intensity and the atmosphere in the playoffs, which will be good for us in the future.”