Southside takes deciding third game against Arab

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Photo courtesy of Average Joe’s Sports Talk 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

With his team blowing a four-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning in game 1 and facing elimination in game 2 in the first round of the Class 5A state baseball playoffs, Southside High baseball coach Shane Chappell conveyed a simple message for his team prior to the nightcap on Friday, April 19.
“I actually told the team on Wednesday that there was a good possibility that we might lose a game on Friday, because everybody that makes the playoffs is good,” said Chappell. “I reminded them of that [after the game 1 loss], and that we had to be mentally prepared to handle that. I told them that it was a three-game series, and that if we executed anin trusted what we do, we’d have a shot.”
The Panthers took Chappell’s words to heart, defeating Arab 5-4 in Friday’s nightcap. That momentum carried over into Saturday when Southside posted a 5-2 victory in the deciding game 3 at Arab City Park.
“It’s very unlikely that a team will sweep its way through the playoffs, and we’re not a team that’s good enough or talented enough to expect to do that,” said Chappell. “The key is how you handle that adversity when you do drop a game. Now that we’ve experienced that, we kind of have it in the bank when we come up against that later in the playoffs.”
Leading 4-2 after six innings in game 1, Southside scored two more in the top of the seventh courtesy of Albert Alberghina’s triple. But with the Panthers two outs away from taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series, a bases-clearing single from Evan Brazleton and a walk-off RBI base hit by Dylan Kirkland instead gave the host Knights the victory.
“[Arab] is very athletic, and I think we are, too, so we knew it was going to be a tough battle,” said Chapelle. “It didn’t seem like there was a stress-free moment for us on Friday.”
Alberghina’s run-scoring single in the top of the first provided Southside with the early lead before Arab tied it in the bottom of the inning by way of Luke Hudson’s RBI base hit.
After the Panthers went down in order in the top of the second, Kirkland singled in Noah Mann for a 2-1 Knight advantage.
The Panthers went ahead 4-2 in the top of the fourth when Ethan Sarratt’s single plated Alberghina, Eli Stewart bunted home Sarratt and Trey Frachiseur scored off Cayden McMichael’s sacrifice fly.
Southside starter Shelby Houston kept Arab off the scoreboard from the third through the sixth innings, allowing only three baserunners during that span.
In 6.1 innings, Houston scattered seven hits, two earned runs and two walks while striking out eight.
“Shelby’s just a freshman and for him to start game 1 in the playoffs is a big accomplishment,” said Chappell. “It took a little bit, but once he got settled in, he gave us a chance. He had to leave the game because of his pitch count, but I thought he did a phenomenal job.”
The Knights finally broke through in the seventh, setting up a do-or-die game 2 for the Panthers.
In game 1, Alberghina went 3-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored, while Sarratt had a hit, an RBI and a run scored.
Game 2 did not start out in the Panthers’ favor, as the Knights took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth. That’s when Southside got on the scoreboard with a pair of runs courtesy of Frachiseur’s single that plated Alberghina and Corbin Driskell.
The Panthers took the lead in the following inning when Driskell bunted home Carson McGraw and Alberghina doubled in Kutter Johnson and Driskell. Arab cut it to 5-4 in the sixth on Mann’s RBI single, but that was as close as the Knights would get.
“Our guys showed a lot of toughness after losing a heartbreaker in game 1 and getting down early in game 2,” said Chappell. “I was proud of our guys for batting back. [Arab was] a ground ball away from tying it up [in the top of the seventh], and we found a way to win.”
Stewart struck out the first two batters in the top of the seventh before Drew Puccio doubled and Hagan Stewart walked to put runners on first and second, but Stewart induced a groundout to even the series at 1-1. In 4.2 innings, Stewart allowed four hits, one earned run and two walks while fanning four.
“Eli had been a little inconsistent during the year, but with us down by three runs [in game 2] in an intense atmosphere, he found a way to get the job done,” said Chappell. “I think he really fed off of that environment; it seemed like the more intense it got, the better Eli got.”
Alberghina went 2-for-2 with two RBI and two runs scored; McGraw went 2-for-3 with a run scored and Driskell had a hit, an RBI and two runs scored in game 2.
Frachiseur was the man of the hour in Saturdays’ deciding game 3. In a complete-game effort, he allowed five hits, two runs and one walk with three strikeouts. After the Knights took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second, Frachiseur limited Arab to two singles, a walk and a fielder’s choice the rest of the way.
“Trey is a phenomenal young man,” said Chappell. “For whatever reason, he’d been pushed to the bullpen and non-area games this year, but I told him [before game 3] that all the things that happened to him so far this season set him up for [game 3]. I couldn’t be more proud of a player who hasn’t had the kind of season he’d been used to in stepping up and performing in the biggest game of the year. It’s probably the best game Trey has had in his career, and he’s the type of kid who is deserving to have good things happen to him.”
Meanwhile at the plate in game 3, the Panthers scored one run in the top of the first, two more in the fourth and another two in the sixth to salt the game away.
McMichael’s score off an error in the top of the first got Southside on the scoreboard. In the fourth, Houston bunted home Alberghina to tie the game and Stewart singled in Houston later in the inning to give the Panthers the lead for good.
Southside added insurance in the top of the sixth via respective RBI base hit from Frachiseur and McMichael.
Houston went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored, while McMichael went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
Overall, Chappell was pleased with his team’s discipline at the plate in the series.
“We had several times when we had the opportunity to have some big innings, but we ended up lining the ball hard right at somebody,” said Chappell. “On Saturday, I thought we did a good job in the short game in bunting and moving the runner over. [Alberghina] has been good for us all year, and he swung the bat well all series. The results didn’t show it at times, but I thought we had a good approach to the plate that gave us opportunities to score. I told our guys that the only thing they can control is having a good at-bat and waiting for a good pitch to hit, and if you keep doing that enough, eventually [the ball] is going to fall.”
Southside will host Springville in a second-round series starting Friday, April 25 with a doubleheader starting at 5 p.m. An if-necessary game 3 is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. The Panthers lost twice to the Tigers in the regular season with scores of 9-4 and 10-0.
“[Springville] Coach [Jonathan] Ford does a great job of getting his team ready, and they’ve had a lot of success over the past several years,” said Chappell. “They play good defense, have good approaches at the plate and are going to pitch well. Their No. 1 pitcher (Carter Samuelson) is tough to score on, so we’re going to have to do a really good job of finding good pitches to hit. The pitchers behind him might not have his speed but they locate well and have some really good off-speed stuff. [Grant] Martinez is one of their better hitters, and they’ve got guys top to bottom in the lineup who do a good job of getting on base. I told our guys that we just need to keep our poise, keep battling at the plate and then hand it over to the next guy.”

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