By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
Sparked by a solid pitching effort from Tyler Burkes, Southside posted a 3-1 victory over Arab on Saturday (Apr. 26) to win the deciding game of the best-of-three Class 5A second round baseball series at SHS.
The Panthers (35-8) travel to Briarwood Christian for the quarterfinal round beginning on Friday (May 2). The teams play a doubleheader at 5 and 7:30 p.m. with an if-necessary game scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“We needed a big game from Tyler today,” said Southside head coach Blake Bone. “He was the star.”
Burkes pitched six strong innings, allowing only two hits while striking out four and giving up two walks.
Southside took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. After leading off with a single, Blake Devine stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice fly to rightfield by Braxton Light. Devine then scored on a base hit by Drew Mullinax.
The Panthers increased their lead to two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Brock Love singled and advanced to second on a groundout by Kyle Stewart. Matt West followed with an RBI single.
Southside added an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth when Dantley Coker reached on an error and advanced to second on an error. West, who went 2-for-3 for the game, singled in Coker for a 3-0 Panther lead.
Love was called on to pitch the seventh inning. Ryan Davis singled, Trace Pardee was hit by a pitch and A.J. Crawford walked on four pitches to load the bases with no outs.
Hunter Clough relieved Love, and Sean Berry lifted a sacrifice fly to left to cut the Panther lead to 3-1.
But Clough induced two groundouts to end the game and send Southside to the third round.
In Friday’s doubleheader, the Knights won the opener by a score of 7-6 before Southside rebounded with a 7-0 victory.
Bone noted that his team did not help its cause in Game 1 by committing several errors, with five of those miscues resulting in four Arab runs.
“We made had too many mental lapses, and [Arab] capitalized on every one of those mistakes. We had to clean it up and make the routine plays that we usually make. But as bad as we performed, we had an opportunity to win at the end, and that helped us take a positive attitude into the second game.”
The hosts held a 3-1 advantage heading into the top of the fifth inning, at which point Arab put across three runs to take the lead for good.
The visitors added three more runs in the top of the seventh before the Panthers almost rallied for the win.
Mullinax drew one-out walk and scored on Coker’s double. Coker later scored on an error to draw Southside within 7-6. The Panthers had runners on second and third with two outs, but Arab pitcher Ryan Knight induces a flyout give the visitors a 1-0 series lead and put Southside one loss away from the end of the season.
“I just told the kids (in between games) to take it one pitch and one at-bat at a time,” said Bone. “Our main thing was just to realize that Game 1 was in the books and we to move forward and take care of business [in Game 2].”
In the opener, Devine led off the bottom of the first with a single, stole second and third and came home on Braxton Light’s sacrifice fly.
Coker’s flyout to centerfield later in the inning plated Mullinax for a 2-0 lead.
Southside made it 3-0 in the third when Light doubled and scored on Clough’s base hit.
Mullinax took the loss, allowing six hits, two walks and five earned runs while striking out five in five and one-third innings.
In six and two-third innings, winning pitcher Jake Mooneyham fanned one while scattering nine hits, four walks and five earned runs.
Thanks to a standout pitching performance from Love, the Panthers’ season was extended with a 7-0 win in the nightcap.
Love dominated the Arab lineup over the first six innings, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out 13. He retired the side in order four times, including striking out the side in the fifth, and had a no-hitter through the first three innings.
Love allowed only four baserunners, only one of which made it past second base.
“When we had our backs against the wall, Brock came in and probably pitched his best game of the year,” said Bone. “His stuff was pretty electric tonight and his mentality on the mound was outstanding.”
Meanwhile, the Southside offense provided all the support Love would need when Devine led off the game with a double and scored on Light’s base hit.
Light scored later in the inning, and Alex West came home in the third for a 3-0 advantage.
Devine scored on an error in the third, while Coker tripled and scored on Matt West’s double in the fourth.
Tanner Snow’s RBI single in the sixth provided Love with a seven-run cushion.
Lakota Leek came on in relief in the bottom of the seventh. He allowed a double and a walk before ending the game with a flyout to rightfield.
For the first two games, Clough went 3-for-6 with an RBI and a run scored; West went 2-for-5 with two RBI; Devine had two hits and three runs scored; Light had two hits, two RBI and two runs scored; and Coker had two hits, and RBI and two runs scored.