By Johnathan Bentley/Daily Mountain Eagle
There was no last-inning magic for Walker this time.
Southside-Gadsden ousted Walker from the playoffs with a 7-2 victory in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers broke open a tight game with a four-run sixth inning and advanced to next week’s state quarterfinals.
A year ago, Walker put together a three-run rally with two outs in the seventh inning to stun Southside in Game 3 of their first-round series.
Thanks to Southside pitchers Drew Mullinax and Brock Love there wasn’t quite as much drama at Valley Park on Saturday. The duo combined on a five-hitter.
Walker had its chances in the early innings, but was unable to come through with a timely hit.
The Vikings left a runner at third in the first inning, left the bases loaded in the second and had a runner thrown out at the plate in the third.
Southside coach Blake Bone expected a good series with the Vikings. The two teams have faced off in the playoffs each of the last three years.
“Walker’s got a great team,” said Bone, who was Ware’s teammate during their collegiate days at UAH. “We’ve kind of developed a rivalry with these guys. We play each other during the year. They know us. We know them. We know what the other is going to do. It comes down to who executes at the end. I’m proud of my guys. They fought through some adversity early. They stuck to the plan, executed and played some good ball.”
Southside jumped out to an early 2-0 in the first inning after a hit a walk and a pair of Walker errors. Andrew Fuhrman scored the first run on a Taylor Snow RBI grounder and Braxton Light scored on a Mullinax fielder’s choice.
Walker notched the game in the top of the third inning.
John Michael Knighton opened the frame with a double and both Quinton McCarty and Nic Woodley walked to load the bases. Dexter Jenkins drove in the first run on a sacrifice fly and Stone Stephenson tied the score with an RBI single. Woodley was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
The Panthers (23-15) regained the lead an inning later when Snow singled and scored on a two-out, single by Cody Pylant for a 3-2 lead.
Southside added four runs in the bottom of the sixth to put the game away.
The Panthers had just four hits through the first five innings, but had five in the sixth inning alone. Joel Hardin drew a four-pitch walk to start the inning. After a sacrifice bunt, Pylant drove Hardin home with a double. Conner Paulson reached on an infield single and Andrew Furhman, Caleb Butler and Blake Devine followed with RBI hits for a 7-2 lead.
Southside’s Love hit Chad Pritchett to open the seventh, but retired the next three batters to close out Walker’s season.
For the Vikings (23-14), Dexter Jenkins took the loss. He went 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits, two walks, seven runs — four earned — while striking out four.
At the plate, both Stephenson and Nix finished 1 for 3 with an RBI, John Michael Knighton was 1 for 4 with a run, Woodley was 1 for 2 and Jenkins was 1 for 3.
Mulliax started the game for the Panthers and went the first 2 2/3 innings. He allowed two hits, two walks, hit three batters and struck out three while allowing two earned runs. Love, a freshman, earned the win, going the last 4 1/3 innings. Love gave up just three singles and hit one batter while striking out two.
For Southside, Furhman was 2 for 4 with two runs and an RBI, Pylant finished 2 for 3 with a run and two RBIs, Paulson was 2 for 3 with a run, Butler was 1 for 4 with a double and an RBI, Snow was 1 for 3 with a run and an RBI, Devine was 1 for 3 with an RBI and Mullinax scored a run and had an RBI.
Saturday’s playoff game was the last high school contest for eight Walker seniors: Shane Donaldson, Dexter Jenkins, Wesley Killingsworth, Joseph Kimbrell, John Michael Knighton, Chad Pritchett, Eric Vinson and Nic Woodley.
Southside visits Pinson Valley (27-13) in third round playoff doubleheader action on May 4 and a third game (if necessary) will be on May 5.