Photo: Southside High’s Sam Raines (left) arrives safe at home plate as Fort Payne catcher J.D. Blalock leaps to catch the relay throw during the Panthers’ 12-2 victory last Tuesday (Mar. 19) at SHS. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
When the season began, Southside High head baseball coach Shane Chappell issued a clear message to his team.
“No matter what the scoreboard says, I want us to go out there and compete.”
Apparently that directive has been received.
Southside improved to 7-2 over the past nine games with a 12-2 victory over Fort Payne in five innings.
“Anytime you score 12 runs, you’re doing something right offensively,” said Chappell. “One through nine (in the batting order), we’ve got some guys who can swing the bat. [Fort Payne] gave us a few things, but I thought we had some quality at-bats. I also thought we did a better job of being aggressive on the base paths, especially later in the game.”
The Panthers (9-8) torched three Wildcat pitchers for 11 hits, while Southside allowed only four
The Panthers scored two runs in the first inning, two in the second and three in the third before a five-run outburst in the bottom of the fourth ended the game on the 10-run mercy rule.
Southside’s hit parade was led by leftfielder Connor Johnson, who went 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. Sam Raines went 2-for-2 with two RBI and a run scored, Andrew Dunston went 2-for-3 with two runs scored, Toren Snow had a home run, two RBI and a run scored and Jacob Little had a hit, two RBI and a run scored.
Tyler Roberts earned the win in the mound, scattering two hits and two walks with one strikeout in four innings. Of the four baserunners he allowed, only one advanced past second.
“Tyler had a little bit of a dead arm and didn’t have his best stuff today, but he’s a guy that competes. I think we committed only one error in the field, so the defense really helped out. Our thing is if we can pitch and defend, we’ve always got a chance to win.”
The hosts took the lead for good when Raines singled and scored on Little’s base hit in the top of the first. Little came home later in the inning for an early two-run advantage.
With runners on first and second and one out, Roberts escaped trouble in the top of the second with a strikeout and a flyout. Brock Ford singles in Johnson in the bottom of the inning, while Little’s RBI groundout made it 4-0.
Johnson’s two-run double highlighted the Panther half of the third, while Snow’s two-run dinger in the fourth pushed the lead to nine runs. Dunston, Ford and Caleb Burford all scored later in the inning to put the game out of reach.
Burford relieved Roberts in the top of the fifth, allowing two runs on a pair of hits before Sam Hotalen flied out to centerfield to end the game. Hotalen, Levee Hall, J.D. Blalock and Dylan Wisener each had a hit for the Wildcats.
“Up until last week, our season has been kind of a rollercoaster,” said Chappell. “The biggest thing we wanted to do is have these kids believe in themselves, and I think they’re starting to do that. The first half of the season was about making progress. Now, we want to win some games.”