Photo: The Southside High softball team celebrates its championship game victory over Sardis in the Etowah County Schools Tournament last Saturday (April 3) in Walnut Grove. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
The long ball helped end a long day for the Southside High softball team last Saturday (April 3) in Walnut Grove.
Three home runs, including two by Macey Herren, pushed the Lady Panthers past Sardis, 10-9, in the championship game of the Etowah County Schools Tournament at West End.
It was Southside’s first county softball title since the 2018 season. Sardis won it in 2019 and COVID-19 cancelled the tournament last year. The Lady Panthers have now won seven out of the last eight county softball tournaments.
After blasting West End and Hokes Bluff by a combined score of 27-2 in the quarterfinals and semifinals, Southside traded run for run with Sardis for most of the championship game. The Lady Panthers were down to their final six outs after Kayden Tarvin’s home in the bottom of the fifth inning provided the Lady Lions with an 8-7 lead. But that advantage was short-lived, as Carley Lankford led off the top of six with a triple and tied the game on Herren’s sacrifice fly. That brought up leftfielder Karlee Thompson with two outs, and the Tournament MVP deposited a 1-1 pitch over the left-centerfield wall for a 10-8 Southside lead.
The Lady Panthers had to endure a few anxious moments in the bottom the seventh when Jaylyn Minshew singled and scored on an error, but Lexi Darnell retired the next three batters to secure the first-place trophy for Southside.
“This was the first time in a while that we played as one unit and as one team,” said Southside head coach Brett Yancey. “Each kid contributed today in some form or fashion. They all stepped up, and everyone was pulling in one direction.”
Yancey said being seeded sixth out of six teams did not add additional motivation.
“That just means that you’ll have more games to play, which allows you to get more into a rhythm. It seemed like as the day went on, everybody kept getting stronger and stronger. We’ve been having one bad inning almost every game where we’re throwing the ball all over the yard, and today we played much better defensively.”
For the Lady Panthers, Herren went 2-for-4 with four RBI and two runs scored; Raeleigh McBurnett went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored; Kynsey Marble went 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI and a run scored; Madalynn Griffith went 2-for-2; Lanford went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored; Thompson had a home run, two RBI and a run scored; and Lynnsey Hunt had a hit and two runs scored.
The Lady Panthers took an early lead when Marble doubled in McBurnett. Sardis went ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the second on Jalyn Hannah’s RBI double and score off a groundout. Southside went up 3-2 in the next inning courtesy of Herren’s two-run dinger, but Kytha Edwards’ base-clearing single soon made it 5-3 in favor of the Lady Lions.
However, Herren went yard again in the top of the fourth. Along with an RBI double by
McBurnett, Herren’s homer gave the Lady Panthers a 7-5 advantage. Hereen’s two home runs gave her seven for the season.
“We all agreed that we had no business being the sixth seed, and we wanted to prove everybody wrong,” she said. “I hadn’t been hitting the ball very well for the previous games (in the tournament) and had been too anxious swinging, so I told myself to relax and wait for my pitch. We lost to Sardis in the county tournament my freshman year, so it felt really good to beat them today.”
Harlee Vincent scored off an error in the bottom of the inning to draw Sardis within a run before Tarvin’s home run in the fifth made it 8-7 in favor of the Sand Mountain squad. That set the stage for Thompson’s eventual game-winning home run in the sixth.
In four and two-third innings, Darnell scattered six hits, two earned runs and no walks to earn the win. She struck out two.
For Sardis, Minshew went 2-for-3 with three runs scored; Edwards went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored; Hannah went 2-for-4 with two RBI; Ellis went 2-for-4; Harris had a home run, two RBI and a run scored; and Vincent had a double and a run scored.
Joining Thompson on the all-tournament team were Lankford, Hunt and Marble form Southside; Minshew, Valerie Owens and Adelyn Ellis from Sardis; Maddie Smith and Rosie Garrett from Hokes Bluff; Summer Crump and Hailey Hanners from Glencoe; Peyton Canady from West End; and Charlotte Whitmore from Gaston.
“We’ve had kind of a slow start to the season, and to me, today was a good steppingstone to finishing out the season,” said Yancey. “I’m proud for all our girls, especially the seniors.”
Southside racked up 33 combined hits in a 17-2 defeat of West End in four innings and a 10-0 shutout of Hokes Bluff in five innings. Against the Lady Patriots, Hunt went 4-for-4 with two RBI and four runs scored; Thompson went 4-for-4 with four RBI and two runs scored; Bailey Houston went 4-for-4 with three RBI and one run scored; Julia Hurley went 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored; Lankford had a hit and two runs scored; Madison Latham had a hit, an RBI and three runs scored; and McBurnett had a double, two RBI and a run scored.
Against the Lady Eagles, Houston went 3-for-3; Hunt went 2-for-3 with a double, three RBI and a run scored; Marble had a double, three RBI and a run scored; McBurnett went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two run scored; Hurley and Sydney Yancey each went 2-for-3 with two runs scored; and Lankford had a hit, and RBI and a run scored. Darnell earned the win, allowing hits six hits, no runs and one walk in five innings.
For Hokes Bluff, Garrett and Smith each went 2-for-3, while Gracie Blair and Halle Davenport each had a hit.
Owens’ walkoff three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning propelled Sardis to an 11-9 victory over Glencoe in the semifinals. She and Jayda Lacks each had three RBI for the Lady Lions, while Ellis had two hits. Hanner finished with three hits and four RBI for the Lady Yellow Jackets, while Abbi Bunt had two hits.