Photo: Southside catcher Ryan Martin (right) returns the ball following a called strike during the Panthers’ loss to Springville in the third round of the Class 5A state baseball playoffs on May 3 at Southside. (Gary Wells)
By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Class 5A No. 4 Southside’s unexpected journey in the state baseball playoffs came to a screeching halt against No. 6 Springville on May 3 at Danny League Field.
The Tigers (30-5) compiled 36 runs in two games, including a 16-run inning in the first game of the doubleheader, as they swept the Panthers, 20-4 and 16-9, and advanced to the semifinals against Madison Academy this past week.
“That’s probably the most damage I’ve seen as a coach against one of our teams as far an offensive display,” said Southside coach Shane Chappell. “I’ve never, in all my years of coaching, seen a team 1 through 9 hit hard ball after hard ball without mishitting a ball.”
In Game 1, Springville took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but the Panthers responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Brennan Stokes hit an RBI double to score Connor Johnson, while Roberts brought home Stokes two batters later to give Southside a 2-1 advantage.
Springville added another run in the second and two more in the third to take a 4-2 lead. However, the Panthers (25-16) responded in the bottom of the inning. A sacrifice fly from Jacob Little scored Johnson to cut the lead to 4-3, and Mason McGlaughn walked with the bases loaded to score Sam Raines to even the score at 4-4. Despite having the bases loaded for most of the inning, however, Southside scored only two runs.
Neither team scored in the fourth inning, but the Tigers blew the game open in the top of the fifth.
With the bases loaded and a 5-4 lead, Jake Goolsby launched a bases-clearing double down the rightfield baseline to extend the Springville lead to 8-4. A series of walks added three more runs for the Tigers before rightfielder Brant Brown blasted a grand slam to give Springville a 15-4 lead.
The onslaught continued, as 15 Tiger batters went to the plate before Southside finally recorded an out. A handful of Tigers batted three times in the inning and the visitors led 20-4 after the fifth finally concluded. The Panthers failed to score in the bottom of the inning, and Springville won 20-4 in five innings via the 10-run mercy rule. Springville had 15 hits in the first game, and the Southside defense committed nine errors.
Southside’s bats were more active in the second game but the Panthers failed to slow down the Springville offense.
In the top of the first, Little brought home Raines to give Southside an early 1-0 lead. However, the Tigers scored seven runs in the bottom of the inning and added four more over the next two innings.
The Southside offense chipped away at the lead, including RBIs from Johnson, Little and Raines over the next three innings. The Panthers had an opportunity for a massive inning in the top of the fifth after Tyler Roberts’ RBI triple with no outs. But Southside scored only one run for the remainder of the inning on an RBI from Andrew Dunston, and the Tigers led 11-6.
Springville scored four more runs in the bottom of the fifth to push the lead back to 15-6, but the Panthers added three more in the top of the sixth to move within striking distance. Little punched through an RBI single to score Johnson and McGlaughn plated Raines. Dunston added another RBI as he drove in Stokes, but the Panthers could not add anything else and trailed 15-9.
The Tigers tacked on one more run in the bottom of the sixth for a 16-9 lead and held the Panthers scoreless in the top of the seventh to win the series.
Despite the result of the series, Chappell was proud of how his team competed and battled back in the second game.
“It’s a testament to them as players and the team they’ve evolved into,” he said. “They have a heart of a champion. They had so many opportunities all year to quit and give in during different games and on the season and never did. Right there after how game 1 ended, and game 2 looked like it was going to be the same thing. But these guys just refused to let it happen and kept battling. I wish I could’ve done more as a coach to give them a better chance to be successful.”
Chappell gave credit to Springville.
“They’re a very good team. We didn’t play very well today, and they did. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys for buying in and accepting us as coaches and trusting us and what they’ve accomplished over the course of the year. From last year to this year, and even within this year, they have nothing to hang their heads about. They have a lot to be proud of.”
Chappell also credited his senior class of Ryan Martin, Cale Burford, Sam Raines, Andrew Dunston, Connor Johnson, Brennan Stokes, Lane Roberts and Mason McGlaughn with laying the foundation for the program moving forward.
“We are forever indebted to (the senior class) for laying that foundation,” he said. “Anything of any significance has a great foundation. Our hope is that eventually we’ll make it to
Montgomery, and these guys can enjoy that as much as anybody because they helped start it. Our underclassmen owe the seniors every ounce of energy and effort for the rest of their career for what they started. They need to come back and get ready to work this summer to finish it.”