Panthers veto Veterans in 2, advance to second round of playoffs

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Shelby Foster

The Lady Panthers crowd home plate to celebrate one of four home runs of the night. Senior Shelby Daniel hit three home runs in the double-header against Veterans High School on Oct. 12.

Morgan Evans, Sports Editor

After finishing the region 5-AAAAA tournament as the two seed, the Lady Panthers faced Veterans High School, the three seed from region 1, in round one of the softball state playoffs. Starr’s Mill defeated the Warhawks in both games, 12-11 in game one and 12-2 in game two, but not after they competed in a nail-biting game one.

Sophomore Wakana Sato started the game, giving up two runs in the top of the first. In the bottom of the first, sophomore Lea Duben was hit by a pitch, and ended up scoring the Panthers’ only run in the first off of a defensive error.

Daniel came up to bat for the second time of the inning and crushed a three-run homer, bringing home Duben and Ashmore.”

— Sports Editor Morgan Evans

In the top of the second, Sato gave up four runs, making the score 6-1 Veterans. The Panthers were not looking too good after the Warhawks scored a run in the top of the third and fourth innings, increasing their lead over the Panthers to 8-1.

“We didn’t start out that great,” head coach Mark Williamson said. “I think part of that was probably our fault. We didn’t mix in pitches well enough. I may not have called enough change ups, but once we did that, we held them in check a little better.”

To start off the bottom of the fourth, senior Shelby Daniel hit a solo home run. Following Daniel’s at bat, sophomore Laura Sellers singled and junior Emily Nieuwstraten was hit by a pitch. Junior Jordan Childress stepped up to the plate and jacked a three-run home run, making the score 8-5 Veterans, with no outs for the Panthers. Following Childress’ home run, sophomores Mikaela Sigler and Alyssa Angelo both hit singles and Duben walked. Sophomore Kate Ashmore hit a two-RBI single bringing home Sigler and Angelo, and completing the Panthers’  batting order. Daniel came up to bat for the second time of the inning and crushed a three-run homer, bringing home Duben and Ashmore. The Panthers now led the Veterans 10-8 going into the top of the fifth.

“We all got kind of down when we were down 8-1,” Daniel said. “I’m glad we picked up the pace and didn’t lay down and die. We actually fought. We didn’t just give it to them.”

In the top of the fifth, Sato gave up back to back singles and a run, making the score 10-9 Panthers. Freshman Paige Andrews came into pitch after Sato, and ended the inning.

In the top of the sixth, Andrews gave up a two-RBI single giving the Warhawks the lead 11-10. In the bottom of the sixth Duben hit a leadoff double and ended up scoring the tying run.

The Panthers held Veterans at 11 in the top of the seventh. In the bottom half of the inning, Childress drew a leadoff walk, and was eventually called out at third. Sigler hit a double, and was replaced with freshman pinch runner Kendall Robinson. Robinson stole third and scored the winning run from a throwing error by the Veterans. The Panthers walked off by a score of 12-11, and took the first game of the double header.

“They battled back,” Williamson said. “They never quit playing hard and came up with a lot of key hits. Shelby [Daniel] stepped up, being our only senior, she stepped up and played like you want to see a senior play. She had three home runs tonight and that’s just awesome.”

In the second game, Veterans acted as the home team and batted in the bottom half of the innings. In the top of the first Duben hit a leadoff single, but made it to third on a throwing error. Two batters later, Daniel hit a sacrifice fly and Duben scored the Panthers’ first run. Andrews continued to pitch into the second game and pitched a flawless first inning, only walking one batter. It wasn’t until the bottom of the second when the Warhawks scored their first run from an RBI double, tying the Panthers 1-1.

In the top of the third, Sato drew a leadoff double that eventually led to a run after Duben singled. Ashmore hit an RBI single that scored Duben, and the Panthers were up 3-1. Sato stayed to pitch the remainder of the game and gave up a single in the third, but held the Veterans at one. The Panthers had a six run fourth due to many Veteran throwing errors as well as singles from Angelo, scoring on an error, Sato and Duben, scoring from Ashmore’s RBI double. Daniel hit her third home run of the night, but first of the game, scoring Ashmore and making the score 8-1 Panthers. The next batter, Sellers, hit a single and ended up scoring the final run of the inning on another Veteran throwing error.

Sato gave up another hit in the fourth, but continued to hold the Warhawks at one. In the top of the fifth Duben hit an infield single, Ashmore hit a bunt single, and Sellers drew a walk. All three girls ended up scoring and the Panthers led the Veterans 12-1 going into the bottom of the fifth. Sato pitched the final inning. Warhawk Chandler Shepherd grounded out, and the next two batters, LIndsey Cauley and Jenna Thomas got on base from a double and then a single. Trinity Theil hit an RBI single, which scored Cauley, making the score 12-2. There were two on base and one out. The final batter of the night, Ashley Ringer, grounded into a double play and the Panthers won by a 10-run mercy rule in five innings and eliminated Veterans from moving on.

“I am super excited,” Childress said. “I’m glad we came out and got two wins. We can relax the rest of the week and come next week ready to play.”

The Panthers will move on to round two of the state playoffs against Arabia Mountain on Wednesday. Game one will be played at 2 p.m., and game two will start around 4 p.m. at Arabia Mountain High School.