Messenger file photo by Chris McCarthy
By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Southside softball celebrated an impromptu senior night with a pair of home victories over Etowah and Gadsden City on Saturday, March 14.
As of last Tuesday (March 17), all spring athletics in the state of Alabama were postponed until at least April 6 as schools have been shut down due to the threat of COVID-19. There is uncertainty on whether schools will resume even then, so the Lady Panthers decided to have senior night a little earlier than they planned to recognize their trio of seniors.
If that was indeed the last home games for Lexi Rennhack, Kaylee Brown and Austyn Patterson, they ended their careers with two explosive performances. The Lady Panthers (7-8, 1-1) run-ruled Class 5A, Area 12 foe Etowah, 14-3, in six innings, and followed that up with a 17-0 victory over Gadsden City in three innings in the night cap.
“I’m glad God gave us such a beautiful day today,” said Southside coach Brett Yancey. “What a day. To win in the fashion in which we won against our friend/rival Etowah… I’m so proud of them today. What a big day.”
Despite the final score indicating a lopsided game, Etowah actually led Southside 3-2 entering the bottom of the fifth inning.
Macey Herren and Julia Hurley each hit a pair of home runs in the first inning, but the Lady Blue Devils responded with three runs in the top of the fifth to take the lead.
The Lady Panthers then erupted for a five-run fifth inning and followed that up with a seven-run inning in the bottom of the sixth.
Yancey attributed his team’s success in the last two innings to an adjustment at the plate.
“We made something happen today that hasn’t happened all year,” Yancey said. “We made an adjustment at the plate to slower pitching. We usually struggle with that. We’re pretty good when it’s somebody speeding up and throwing hard. We can handle that. But we faced slower pitching today. We jumped on them early with two home runs, and then we got out on our front foot and didn’t make adjustments.
“We finally made that adjustment in the fifth inning when we went down. The very next inning we came back and put up four or five runs, and that changed the game. We ended up run-ruling them based on how we made adjustments at the plate.”
Hurley led the way at the plate, finishing 3-for-3 with three RBIs, a walk and three runs scored. Herren was 2-for-4 with one RBI and two runs scored, and Sydney Yancey was 1-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored. Carly Lankford, Lynnsey Hunt and Lexi Rennhack all knocked home two runs each, while Karlee Thompson added one RBI.
Rennhack (pictured above) pitched all six innings and struck out seven while allowing three runs and six hits.
“Huge confidence boost for (Rennhack) on the mound,” Yancey said. “It’s the first game she’s really gotten to complete a game. She had a couple of innings where she battled, but she’s been a trooper for us. She kind of got thrown into the main role in the last couple of years as our main pitcher, and she’s stepped up. I’ve been proud of her. She’s really worked at her pitching, and she’s become our leader. She’s our mom on the team. She’s a team leader, team organizer and just a precious kid.”
Southside only needed two at-bats to emerge victorious against the Lady Titans in the second game. The Lady Panthers scored 10 runs in the first inning and seven in the second to end the game on the mercy rule.
Kynsey Marble led the way at the plate, going 2-for-2 with three RBI. Raeleigh McBurnett had three hits and one RBI, while Lexy Darnell, Madalynn Griffith, Sydney Yancey and Lynnsey Hunt all finished with two RBI. Rennhack, Kaylee Brown, Khloe Knight, Hurley and Jovi Marble each batted in one run.
In addition, SHS senior Austyn Patterson played in her first game of the season after tearing her labrum in the offseason. Patterson, who signed a scholarship to Snead State earlier this month, asked Brett Yancey if she could play at first base. Yancey agreed, as long as Patterson did not throw at any point since her injury is not completely healed.
In Patterson’s first inning on the field, she made two outs in a row.
“I met with (Patterson’s) family back in the fall,” Yancey said. “I told them they had to think about long term for her. I want nothing to happen. That’s two years of school paid for. So she decided to have surgery, which is significant because she started the last two years for us at third base. Last year, she finished the season on a tear at the plate. So it took a big bat out of our lineup this year. So for her to be able to make two outs in a row made it a great day as well.”
Yancey said while only two seniors are in the regular rotation – Rennhack and Brown – he feels that all three upperclassmen on the team bring leadership. He mentioned Brown as the “cornerstone” of the team.
“K.B. – what an exceptional athlete and kid she is,” he said. “She’s such a fun kid to be around. She doesn’t ever get nervous. She’s mean, tough and mentally tough. She’s so mentally tough, and honestly, probably one of the best catchers in the state of Alabama. She’s a big-time player. She can play, in my opinion, just about anywhere. She’s had an unbelievable start to the season, too. She’s killing the ball. She’s our cornerstone. Everything starts at the mound and on the plate, and we have two seniors there.”
Along with every other team in the state, the Lady Panthers must now play the waiting game to see if they will be able to return to the field this season.