Wayne County’s walk-off win forces game three


Alyson Phinney

Senior Alyssa Angelo and sophomore Lauren Flanders celebrate during the Lady Panthers’ 8-3 win the first game of the series. Senior Kate Ashmore and freshman Lilli Backes each recorded three RBIs in the Mill’s win over Wayne County.

Rilee Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief

Following a disappointing loss in the region championship game, the Starr’s Mill softball team hosted Wayne County in the first round of the AAAAA GHSA state tournament. After using a late rally to defeat the Yellow Jackets 8-3 in game one, Wayne County walked off in the bottom of the seventh inning of game two to force a tiebreaker game.

“The first game was good for our bats,” senior Lea Duben said. “We needed to carry the intensity we had in the first game into the second game and we didn’t.”

Alyson Phinney
Senior Lea Duben slides into second base. The Lady Panthers fell behind in game one, but used late rallies in the fifth and sixth innings to capture a win. They came from behind in the second game as well, but freshman Yellow Jacket Hannah Stubbs hit a walk-off single to tie the series at 1-1.

The Lady Panther offense rolled in the first game, with senior Kate Ashmore racking up three RBIs. Freshman Lilli Backes pitched a complete game that featured four strikeouts. Sophomore Lauren Flanders was 3-4, including three singles, two runs, and a stolen base. Starr’s Mill fell into an early 3-1 deficit, but used the fifth and sixth innings to rally to an 8-3 victory.

Freshman Hannah Stubbs pitched two complete games against the Mill, and added an RBI and a run in the first game against the Lady Panthers. Freshman Jayln Taylor also had an RBI in the first game against Starr’s Mill.

“They jumped on us early and we were down 3-1,” Flanders said. “But I don’t think any of us stressed and we did what we needed to do.”

Backes opened the game by retiring the Yellow Jackets’ first three batters in just five pitches. Flanders then led of the bottom of the first with a single down the left field line. Duben followed with a sacrifice bunt, and a bad throw allowed Flanders to score. The one run is only damage the Mill would do, and they went into the second inning with a 1-0 lead.

Senior Tionne Wallace led off by drawing a walk, and sophomore Arabia Easley advanced her with a single. Stubbs then hit a single into right field, scoring Wallace. During the next at-bat, Easley scored on a wild pitch, but sophomore Greysen Brannen later struck out swinging. Taylor then stepped up and hit a ground ball to second that scored Stubbs. The half-inning later ended on a pop out from Senior Logann Echols, but not before Wayne County built a 3-1 lead over the Lady Panthers.

“We were ready to play,” Duben said. “We had a bit of a slow start but once we settled in he had a mindset of ‘see ball, hit ball’.”

The Lady Panthers managed to get one runner on base in the second, but she was left stranded. Backes responded by striking out two of the three batters she faced in the top of the third. Duben and senior Kate Ashmore hit back-to-back singles following a Flanders strikeout to start the bottom of the inning. Sophomore Jolie Lester then hit an RBI single to centerfield that closed the gap to 3-2. Backes then hit a single to right field, but a double play during the next at-bat ended inning.

Wayne County only saw four batters make an appearance in the top of the fourth inning, as Backes made quick work of the Yellow Jackets. However, the Lady Panthers went three up, three down, in the bottom half of the frame. Backes kept her rhythm and retired the next three Wayne County batters.

The Lady Panthers used the bottom of the fifth inning to retake the lead over the Yellow Jackets. Flanders and Duben got on base, and Ashmore and Backes hit them home. By the end of the inning, Starr’s Mill led 4-3.

Alyson Phinney
Duben runs to home plate during the first game against the Yellow Jackets. The Lady Panthers held a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning in the second game, but multiple defensive errors set up the winning hit for Wayne County.

“[Backes] settled into a rhythm and our bats came alive,” head coach Mark Williamson said.  

Backes walked Wallace to start the sixth inning, but the defense then forced three consecutive outs. Senior Alyssa Angelo led off the bottom of the inning with a double to center field. Two batters later, Flanders bunted for a single and Duben followed by drawing a walk, which loaded the bases. Ashmore then smacked a 2-RBI single to center field to increase the Mill’s lead to 6-3. After a ground out from Lester, Backes hit a 2-RBI single to right field before a ground out from junior Paige Andrews concluded the inning.

With an 8-3 lead, the Lady Panthers were three outs away from a victory. Taylor led off with a ground out, and freshman Whaley Moody followed with a pop out to center field. Senior Maisie Palmer then grounded out, and the Lady Panthers captured an 8-3 win in the first game of the best-of-three series.

“[Backes] keeps her composure and she keeps us calm,” Duben said. “This was a big moment for her and a big moment for us.”

In game two, Starr’s Mill jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on an RBI double from Duben that scored Flanders. In the bottom half of the inning, the Yellow Jackets went three up, three down, as Andrews pitched well to start the game. The Mill recorded one runner during the top of the second, but they were left on base when the frame concluded. Wayne County then stranded three runners in the bottom of the inning.

After going three up, three down, the Starr’s Mill defense returned to the diamond. Andrews pitched well in the inning aside from allowing a Palmer home run that tied the game at 1-1. In the top of the fourth, the Lady Panthers once again only saw three batters take the plate. Wayne County then stranded two more runners, and the score stayed tied.

“It’s hard to play defense on a home run,” Flanders said. “But all you can do is keep trying, and I think we did that.”

Starr’s Mill finally opened the fifth inning with two singles, but the next three batters recorded outs and ended the inning. The Yellow Jackets put more runners on base, and an error from Angelo allowed a run to score giving Wayne County a 2-1 lead going into the sixth inning.

The inning was quiet for both teams, but the action picked up in the final frame. Senior Wakana Sato singled to left field, and two batters later Flanders took the plate with two outs. She hit an RBI-double down the left field line that tied the game at 2-2. During Duben’s at-bat, Flanders stole third, and the sprinted home after a mental lapse from Wayne County. She slid past the catcher and put Starr’s Mill up 3-2 going into the bottom of the seventh.

With Backes on the mound, Moody left off with a ground ball to first base, but an error from the fielder allowed the runner to be safe. Palmer advanced Moody with a sacrifice bunt, and Echols recorded the second out on a groundout to Backes. The freshman pitcher then walked sophomore catcher Mackenzie Kagee. Wallace hit a ground ball back to the mound, but a miscommunication on the fielding allowed a run to score. Backes then walked the bases loaded, and Stubbs hit a blooper over Angelo that scored the winning run and kept the Yellow Jackets’ season alive.

“We couldn’t seem to get the bats going in game two,” Williamson said. “Give [Stubbs] credit. She kept us off balance and hit her spots well.”

With the series tied 1-1, a game three will be played to determine the winner of the series. The deciding game will be played on Oct. 15 at Panther field. The contest will begin at 5 p.m.

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