By Chris McCarthy/Editor
The Southside High softball team endured a nailbiter on Tuesday (Apr. 1) to gain its latest victory.
Locked in a scoreless tie with Class 5A, Area 13 rival Fort Payne through five innings, the third-ranked Lady Panthers finally pushed across a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth.
That advantage was in serious jeopardy in the top of the seventh when the Lady Wildcats loaded the bases on respective one-out singles from Katelin Howard and Amber Shankes and a walk by Maryeah McElrath.
Southside starter Claire Graves was up for the challenge, however, as the fanned the next batter.
Brooke Ingram represented Fort Payne’s last hope, but shortstop Molly Free fought off a glaring setting sun to catch Ingram’s fly ball and secure the 2-0 victory.
Lady Wildcat starter Kat Thompson kept the Lady Panthers at bay over the initial five frames. The 7th grader escaped a bases-loaded, one-out situation without damage in the second and stranded Hunter Ashcraft at second base with no outs in the third.
In the fourth, Free won a 10-pitch battle with Thompson for a leadoff single. Free moved to third base on Savannah Yancey’s sacrifice bunt but the hosts failed to bring her home.
Southside (18-5, 3-0) finally broke through in the sixth when Graves opened the inning with a double and Free worked a walk.
A textbook sacrifice bunt by Yancey moved the runners to second and third, setting up Brittany Williams’ RBI single.
Savannah Elkins then punched a base hit to plate Free, with Williams getting thrown out on a close play at the plate.
In seven innings, Graves struck our four while allowing four hits and two walks. She retired 10 of 11 batters from the third through six innings while sending the Lady ‘Cats down in order in the fourth and fifth.
“Claire did a great job of pitching seven innings and locating the ball like she did,” said SHS head softball coach Angie Sanders. “We had to make some adjustments at the plate after the first couple of innings, and my two juniors, Elkins and Williams, ended up coming through when they needed to. It isn’t always pretty, but this team always finds a way. It’s an area win in the books.”
Free went 2-for-2 with a run scored, while Williams and Elkins each had a hit and an RBI.
In a compete-game effort, Thompson scattered eight hits and two walks while fanning four.
Krylin Chappell had two hits for Fort Payne.
“We still have some things to keep working on,” said Sanders. “I tell the girls not to get content on what they’re doing. But these kids put in the extra time to do what they’re doing so far.”