Panther sweep Walker, will host Cullman in state semifinals

FacebookGoogle+TwitterLinkedIn

By Jonathan Bentley/Daily Mountain Eagle

Southside High ended Walker’s baseball season with a pair of
narrow wins last Friday (May 6) in Jasper – edging the Vikings 3-2 in eight
innings in the opener and 5-3 in the series clincher in the Class 6A
quarterfinal round.

The Panthers (31-15) host defending state champion Cullman
in the state semifinals on Friday (May 12) with a doubleheader starting at 5
p.m. An if-necessary third game is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday.

It is Southside’s first semifinal appearance since the 2011
season.

“It was a team effort, all the way around,” said Southside
head coach Blake Bone. “Both games were nail biters in kind of a crazy
atmosphere. The big thing is that our younger guys aren’t getting rattled in
pressure situations.”

Missed opportunities and missing the strike zone proved to
be too much for Walker (27-16) to overcome. Southside rallied for the game one
victory, taking advantage of two errors and a passed ball in the eighth inning.

The Panthers scored five first-inning runs with the benefit
of just one hit in the nightcap. The result was a 5-1 lead after one inning of
play.

Walker battled back, cutting the gap to two runs, but got no
closer. Walker left the bases loaded three times in the last four innings.

The Vikings left 11 men on base and issued 11 walks in the
game.

In Friday’s opener, Walker held a 2-1 lead going into the
seventh inning. Southside put together a rally with a pair of hits and a walk
to load the bases with one out. Baylon Fry followed with a sacrifice fly to
send the game to extra innings.

With the score tied 2-2 in the top of the eighth,
Southside’s Logan Brooks reached on an error to lead off the inning. He stole
second base, moved to third on a second error and scored on a passed ball.

Walker put runners in scoring position in both the seventh
and eighth innings, but was unable to come up with a clutch hit.

Bryant Atkins went the distance for the Vikings and took the
loss, allowing three runs – two earned – on seven hits and two walks while
striking out four in eight innings.

In a sign of things to come, Walker had some bad luck in the
fifth inning when Slade Harbin’s would-be two-run double bounced over the fence,
costing the Vikings a run. Atkins, who would have scored easily, had to return
to third base, where he was stranded.

Evan Edwards got the win for the Panthers, throwing three
shutout innings. He allowed a pair of hits with two walks while striking out two.

Logan Miracle pitched the bottom of the eighth and got the
save. He walked two and fanned one. Starter Sam Raines went four innings,
striking out two while allowing three hits, two runs and two walks.

“If we didn’t make an error behind him, Sam probably would
have finished the game,” said Bone. “He didn’t bat an eye and he kept [the
batters] off balance, just like he’s been doing all year. He probably had his
best stuff since the playoffs started. He’s just 14 years old, so it’s amazing
what he’s accomplished this season.”

At the plate for Southside, Greyson Daugherty had two hits,
while Fry, Jarren Wright, Tanner Snow and Baye DeFranco each had one.

“We played really good defense and made some plays when we
had to,” said Bone. “[Walker] had their No. 1 guy pitch the opener, and
although the stat book won’t show it, we actually swung the bat pretty well.”

Walker started game two with a bang thanks to a Jackson
Holladay home run.

The Vikings led 1-0 going into the bottom of the first when
things took a turn for the worse. Southside took advantage of six walks, a
costly error and a double to score five runs.

Chase Cross got the start and took the loss. Holladay, who
came in relief, allowed two unearned runs in the first inning, but held the
Panthers scoreless the rest of the way despite walking eight batters. Southside
had just three hits in the win.

Daugherty went 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored.

Walker cut the gap to 5-3 with two runs in the third inning.

Holladay singled and scored on an error and Atkins scored on
a double down the leftfield line.

Walker was unable to push across another run. The Vikings
had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth without scoring a run and left
the bases loaded after three walks in the seventh inning.

Miracle got the win in the nightcap, pitching six innings.
He scattered six hits, one earned run and three walks while striking out nine.

Edwards pitched the seventh innings and got the save,
allowing three walks while fanning the final two batters.

Southside and Cullman met once during the regular season,
with the Bearcats posting a 5-4 win. Cullman, who finished the regular season
as the top-ranked team in Class 6A, defeated Southside in last season’s
quarterfinal round.

“You could definitely say it’s a rivalry,” said Bone.
“They’re a good team, and we’re excited about playing them. But we’re pretty
good, too, and I think our guys are ready. This is the one they’ve been
wanting. It should be fun.”

Messenger Publisher/Editor Chris McCarthy contributed to
this article.

Latest News

Gadsden Pilot Club donates to Sheriff’s Office
Gadsden fire department opens new station
Gadsden/Etowah Chamber hosts women’s conference
County Commission passes record budget of $25 million
Bankston Motor Homes hosts grand opening 

Latest Sports News

Etowah ranked in latest ASWA football poll
Locals make AHSAA Prep Spotlight
Lady Panthers win 13th straight county volleyball title
Southside sweeps Bulldog Twilight Run
Ashville runner breaks own school record at state course