By Chris McCarthy/Editor
The Southside High softball team showed last weekend in Huntsville why it went wire-to-wire as the top-ranked squad in Class 6A.
The Lady Panthers made short work of the opposition in the Class 6A North Regional Tournament, beating three ranked teams to the tune of 12-0 en route to the North Regional title.
Southside takes on Daphne in the Class 6A state tournament’s opening round on Friday (May 15) at 12 p.m. at Lagoon Park in Montgomery.
The Lady Panthers (38-5) began the regional tournament with a 3-0 victory over second-ranked Hartselle, then cruised past No. 9 Athens, 6-0, in the semifinals. Southside went on to defeat No. 8 Cullman, 3-0, in the championship game.
Senior pitcher Claire Graves earned all three wins, striking out 32 while allowing just seven hits.
“Claire pitched very well and concentrated the entire time,” said SHS head coach Angie Sanders. “We’ve pitch her more this year than we have in the past in terms of pitching back-to-back games and day-to-day, so I feel that Claire is seasoned and ready for these multiple games.”
At the same time, Sanders pointed out how much of a luxury she’s had this season with Brittany Williams and Savannah Yancey as her No. 2 and No. 3 pitchers, respectively.
“Those two girls have won key games for us as well, but at this point Claire displays a lot of confidence and our team plays well behind her.”
Sanders noted that her team showed no ill effects after finishing second to Fort Payne in the Area 13 Tournament. In fact, Southside’s runner-up finish might have been a blessing in disguise.
“First of all, it fueled our determination of not letting that happen again,” said Sanders. “Second, I think it allowed us not to go in the regionals overconfident. With the success we had prior to the area tournament, you could go into [the regionals] with your chest puffed out and get knocked down real quick. I also thought that when we played at home, we got a little too comfortable in our own atmosphere.So I think [losing in the area tournament] made us re-focus and re-evaluate ourselves and make sure that we took it inning-by-inning to accomplish our goals and not look ahead.
It is the program’s first trip to the state tournament in two years. The 2013 Lady Panthers went 0-2 in Montgomery, but Sanders is confident that her current squad will have a better showing.
“We’ve actually beaten four of the eight teams down there, and I think our North Regional was very tough with several ranked teams. I’m not saying that the South doesn’t have good reams, but we’ve played some pretty tough competition. Our girls are fired up and ready.”