Panthers come up just short in 5A state quarterfinals

  Southside High’s Alex Pondick delivers a pitch during the Panthers’ 4-0 loss to Pinson Valley in Game 1 of the Class 5A best-of-3 state quarterfinal series on May 3 in Pinson. Southside High’s Alex Pondick delivers a pitch during the Panthers’ 4-0 loss to Pinson Valley in Game 1 of the Class 5A best-of-3 state quarterfinal series on May 3 in Pinson.

By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent

The Southside High baseball team’s run at a possible Class 5A state championship came to an abrupt end on Saturday (May 4) at the hands of the Pinson Valley in the state quarterfinals.

In the deciding Game 3 of the best-of-3 series, the host Indians diffused a Panther rally in the top of seventh inning to post a 4-3 victory.

Pinson Valley (33-11) will face either Homewood or Hartselle in the state semifinals this weekend. Southside ended its season with a 29-13 record.

“It’s tough any time you lose,” Southside head coach Blake Bone said. “It hurts, but I’m definitely proud of my guys.”

The Panthers led 3-1 going into the top of the sixth, but Pinson Valley rallied for one run in the sixth and two more in the seventh to secure the win. 

Drew Mullinax opened the bottom of the seventh inning with a single, and Andrew Fuhrman’s sacrifice bunt got him to second. A strikeout and a line drive out ended the game and the season for Southside.

Southside jumped on the Indians in the first inning when Drew Mullinax led off with a double and advanced to third base on a passed ball. 

Andrew Fuhrman bunted, and Mullinax scored on a fielding error. 

The Indians scored their first run in the top of the second when Jared McCurdy singled to bring in Evans.

Southside plated two runs in the third inning. Fuhrman struck out but reached first on a wild pitch. After Hunter Clough sacrificed Fuhrman to second, Blake Devine singled to give the Panthers a 2-1 edge. A single and a walk then loaded the bases, and an infield single by Braxton Light increased the Southside lead to 3-1.

The Indians got two runners on base in the top of the sixth inning against Panther starter Jesse Fry, which brought Patrick Lister to the mound. Lister hit two of the first three batters he faced, forcing in a run and pulling the hosts within 3-2.

After hitting a batter to begin the top of the seventh, Lister was replaced by Alex Pondick, who then hit his first batter. Gracen Armstrong singled to rightfield to bring in Joseph Downing and tie the game at 3-3, and Josh Hines’ base hit drove in Scott Falkinburg with the go-ahead run.

The teams split the series’ opening games on Friday (May 3).

Behind the pitching of Colby Wingard, Pinson Valley won the opener, 4-0. In the complete-game shutout, Wingard allowed six hits and struck out four. 

The Panthers bounced back for a 1-0 victory in the nightcap. Both games were played in a steady, and at times, driving rain.

In the second inning of Game 1, Southside committed a pair of errors and Pinson Valley got a two-RBI single from Armstrong for all the runs the Indians would require. 

Alex Pondick suffered the loss, allowing four hits and striking out six. 

At the plate for the Panthers, Mullinax went 3-for-4, while Hunter Clough, Cody Pylant and Matt West each added a hit.

Fuhrman turned in a solid pitching effort in Game 2, scattering five hits while striking out nine. 

Southside managed a run in the third inning when Mullinax doubled and was sacrificed to third by Fuhrman. Mullinax then scored the game’s only run on Clough’s line drive base hit. 

In the third inning, Pinson Valley loaded the bases with no outs. Armstrong stepped to the plate and hit a line drive to shortstop Brock Love, who caught it and threw to Pylant at second for the double play. Fuhrman then struck out Josh Hines to end the inning.

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