Messenger file photo by Chris McCarthy
By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Southside swept Sardis in a pair of tightly contest games between two Etowah County rivals last Saturday (March 14) at Danny League Field.
The Lions (2-8) took a 4-2 lead in the top of the sixth before the Panthers (9-7) answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning to tie the game. Designated hitter Toren Snow reached base on a walk, and pinch runner Hunter Humphries scored later in the inning on a wild pitch to tie the game.
With the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh, Landon Brasher drew a bases-loaded walk, and Jacob Little (pictured above) scored for an anticlimactic walk-off victory for the Panthers.
Senior pitcher Micah Phillips earned the complete-game victory on the mound. He tossed all seven innings and allowed only three hits, two walks and one earned run while striking out three.
Little, Hayden Fry and Aulden Battles all recorded hits for the Panthers, while Little, Brasher and Drew McBurnett had one RBI each. Luke Morris, Jay Owens and Trey Hubbard had one hit each for Sardis, while Brody Samples had one RBI.
Both offenses were sharper in the nightcap, but the Panthers’ bats proved to be too much for the Lions to handle. Battles and Snow each had three hits for Southside, while Snow knocked home three runs. Phillips had an RBI, while Little and Brock Ford each recorded a hit. Ford tossed five innings and struck out six batters, and Brasher earned the save. Battles, Tyler Roberts and Ford all scored two runs.
“It still wasn’t clean, but we just continued to find a way,” said Southside coach Shane Chappell. “People don’t realize there’s a reason why major league teams don’t play doubleheaders. So to come out here and play three games back-to-back-to-back in the hot sun we haven’t had, that’s a testament to our guys mentally and physically.
“We told them that this was a good way to challenge ourselves to see if we could stay focused the whole day. I thought they did a great job. We had two good clubs coming in here today and we finished 2-1, and really had a chance to be 3-0.”
Hubbard, Morris, Owens, Tyler Goolsby, Braxton Brooks and Chase Williams all had one hit for the Lions. Williams also had two RBI.
Sardis head coach Kevin Vinson said he discussed with his team the possibility that Saturday could be the last day of the season due to the threat of COVID-19.
“I’ll just tell them to prepare,” Vinson said. “All we’re going to do is prepare and do our job. We can’t control anything from here on out. We talked a lot about it yesterday. Everybody’s got questions. The AHSAA seems to not really have many answers right now other than ‘wait and see.’ So, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to wait and see and sit there and prepare the same way. Hopefully in three weeks we’ll be back at it.”
If Saturday was in fact the last time the Lions will take the field this season, Vinson said he’s extremely proud of what this senior class has accomplished.
“They’ve done so much,” he said. “When I got this job, they were sophomores. Now, they’re seniors and they’ve done a lot. They’ve won a lot of ball games. They went to the third round of the playoffs and have been to the playoffs every year. They’ve done a lot.”
Chappell said his four seniors – Tyler Roberts, Micah Phillips, Brock Ford and Tyler Rose – are special people and that he’s proud of the way they represented the program and community.
“We’ve got four seniors who I love tremendously,” Chappell said. “They are great people. They all four represent our program the way we want it to be done. You can’t ask for better competitors and leaders. You always hate to see guys go – especially ones you’ve gotten close to. I hate for this to be their last one without a chance to compete for something.
“But if it is, that’s what God’s meant for it to be. We’ve just got to understand that some things are out of our control. But I’m glad they were able to come out today and finish with two wins on their home field. All four of those guys are special. They’re going to be good husbands and fathers. I know they’ll keep coming around and investing in our program because Southside is a special place to them.”
Chappell said while the circumstances are difficult for his team – especially the seniors – to come to grips with, he feels like it is an example of why athletes should not take the game for granted.
“Baseball is a great teacher of life,” he said. “Once you think you’ve got it figured out, it will humble you. When you take things for granted, it goes the other way. It’s a good teacher of life because you deal with so much failure in it, and I think our guys have responded. I’m proud of how we’ve battled and handled ourselves.”