By Chris McCarthy
With four straight Etowah County Schools Softball Tournament titles under its belt, Southside High did not hit the panic button when it found itself trailing 5-0 after one and a half innings against Sardis last Saturday (Apr. 8).
“I basically told them to put things in perspective and not to make the situation bigger than it was,” said SHS head coach Angie Sanders. “I said that it was still early and we just had to calm down, do our jobs at the plate and keep playing defense. I just tried to get them back into their comfort zone.”
Whatever zone the Class 6A, No. 8 Lady Panthers found themselves in, Southside (14-12) got it done on the mound, in the field and at the plate en route to a 10-5 win and a sixth straight county championship.
After yielding three hits and two runs in the top of the second inning, Savanna Yancey gave up just two hits and four base runners the rest of the way while retiring 12 of the final 17 Sardis batters. She wound up allowing five hits, two earned runs and two walks while striking out four in six innings in relief of Mallary Smith.
Yancey was backed by solid defense. Catcher Kaylee Brown threw out a Sardis base runner in the fourth, while Yancey, second baseman Becca Feazell and first baseman Smith executed a sharp 1-4-3 double play in the sixth after the Lady Lions had two runners on base with one out.
With Yancey holding the Lady Lion offense in check, three Sardis fielding errors paved the way for a four-run third inning to give the Lady Panthers the lead for good. Southside pushed across one run in the fourth and three more in the sixth.
Seven of the Lady Panthers’ 15 hits were bunt singles.
“We have a lot of speed and we try to use that to our advantage,” said Sanders. “Nine times out of 10 with about five of our players when we put the ball on the ground, we’re going to get to first [base],” said Sanders.
For Southside, Hannah Hufstetler went 3-for-3 with three RBI; Caroline Pope went 3-for-3 with three runs scored; Sydney Yancey went 2-for-3 with a home run, an RBI and two runs scored; Lauren Hunter went 2-for-4 with two runs scored; Emilee Coker went 2-for-5 with two RBI; Smith went 2-for-4; and Brown had a hit and an RBI.
The Lady Lions came out of the gate blasting away, as RBI singles by Jade Bonds, Emily Cook and Kaitlyn Parker stalked Sardis to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. Starting pitcher Kaylee Harraid kept Southside off the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning, and Bailey White’s two-run double plated Hailey Hill and Carley Gardner to provide the Lady Lions with a five-run advantage in the top of the second.
The Sardis lead was short-lived. Pope led off the bottom of the inning with a triple and scored on a Hufstetler double to draw within 3-2. Savanna Yancey allowed only a walk in the top of the third. Sydney Yancey drew a walk to start off the bottom of the inning, followed by respective base hits from Hunt and Pope. All three base runners eventually scored on errors, and Coker singled in Brown latter in the inning to make it 6-5 in favor of Southside.
“That [third] inning is when [Southside] started to put the ball in play,” said Sardis head coach Richie Lee. “We had some chances to get out of [the inning] but we couldn’t do it until [Southside] went up by a run. We just couldn’t put any more runs together after the first two [innings]. We had a few [runners] in scoring position but we couldn’t drive them in.”
Hunt tripled and scored on Hunt’s base hit in the fourth for a 7-5 lead. Carley Sarratt came on in relief for Sardis in the fifth and kept the Lady Panthers off the scoreboard, but Sidney Yancey led off the next inning with a home run that cleared the straightaway centerfield fence. Pope and Destinee Stimpson later scored to make it 10-5.
Savanna Yancey retired Sardis in order in the top of the seventh to secure the first place trophy.
For Sardis, Cook went 2-for-4 with an RBI, while White had a hit, two RBI and a run scored. Bonds had a hit, an RBI and a run scored, while Parker and Whitney Feemster each had a hit and an RBI. Hill had a hit and two runs scored.
In the tournament’s semifinal round, Southside defeated Gaston, 14-0, while Sardis beat Hokes Bluff, 12-2. Both games ended in five innings on the 10-run mercy rule.
Making the All-Tournament team were Savanna Yancey, Smith, Pope and Coker from Southside; Cook, Hill and Sarratt from Sardis; Kayla Hickman and Jessie Nunnallly from Hokes Bluff; Alyssa Gargus and Alex Moon from Gaston; Kinleigh Harper from Glencoe and Amber Crosby from West End.