Lady Panthers advance with 10-1 victory over Wayne County


Shelby Foster

The Lady Panthers celebrate a home run from sophomore Jolie Lester. The home run was one of many runs scored in the Mill’s 10-1 win over Wayne County.

Rilee Stapleton, Editor-in-Chief

After splitting the first two games of the series, the Starr’s Mill softball team defeated Wayne County 10-1 to advance to the second round of the AAAAA GHSA State Playoffs. The game was close up until the fifth inning, when the Lady Panthers scored seven runs resulting in a mercy-rule victory over the Yellow Jackets.

Shelby Foster
Lester fields a ground ball and delivers the ball to first base. With their win over the Yellow Jackets, Starr’s Mill advances to the second round of the AAAAA GHSA State Tournament.

“I think the girls came out and decided they wanted to play,” head coach Mark Williamson said. “We got timely hits with runners in scoring position.”

Freshman pitcher Lilli Backes struck out five Wayne County players en route to the Panthers’ dominant win. Seniors Wakana Sato and Lea Duben combined for three singles, a double, and five RBIs. Sophomore Jolie Lester smashed a home run and made multiple plays on defense.

For the Yellow Jackets, sophomore Arabia Easley had an RBI triple that brought in Wayne County’s only run of the night. Freshman Hannah Stubbs pitched four solid innings for the Jackets, but collapsed in the fifth, allowing Starr’s Mill to build a large lead.

“We came out with a mentality of ‘Why not us?’  and we trusted each other and made things happen,” Duben said.

Starr’s Mill lost the coin toss and had to bat first, going three up, three down. Wayne County followed and their only runner of the inning was put on base by a walk, but she was left stranded when senior Tionne Wallace grounded out to end the inning.

The Lady Panthers started the second inning with an infield single from Lester. Backes then advanced her on a ground ball to the shortstop. Junior Paige Andrews came after and hit a ingle to left field, but lester was unable to advance. Sato then stepped up and smacked an RBI single to left field, scoring Lester. Senior Alyssa Angelo followed with an RBI single on a bunt. The final run of the inning was scored later on an RBI single from Duben. The Yellow Jackets went into the bottom of the second inning trailing 3-0.

We just had to go out and take care of business, and we did that.”

— senior Alyssa Angelo

“We felt like we were the better team, we just had to act like it,” Angelo said. “We just had to go out and take care of business, and we did that.”

Backes struck out the first two batters she faced, and forced a ground ball from the third batter that ended the frame. However, in the top of the third inning, the Lady Panthers were also retired after just three batters. Once again in the bottom of the third, Backes faced just three batters and struck out two. Angelo was able to get on base in the top of the fourth, but she was left stranded.

In the bottom of the fourth, Wallace hit a double that reached the back fence. Easley followed with an RBI triple to center field that put Wayne County on the scoreboard. However, the two-out rally was over before it really started as Stubbs hit a ground ball that ended the inning.

“[Backes] has really matured in the postseason,” Duben said. “Pressure got on her, and she handled it like she was a senior.”

Starr’s Mill used the fifth inning to distance themselves from the Yellow Jackets. It began with a two-out home run from Lester that put the Mill up 4-1. Three batters later, Sato hit an RBI single that scored Backes. Freshman Sidney Blair later added to the rally with an RBI single, and Flanders contributed a two-RBI single to increase the lead to 8-1. Duben then crushed a two-RBI double that concluded the seven-run stretch that put the Mill up 10-1.

Down by nine, the Yellow Jackets had one chance to score or mercy rule would end the game. Backes struck out the first batter, but the next two were able to make contact. However, the Lady Panther defense fielded the balls cleanly and closed out the game.

“We have nothing to lose right now,” Williamson said. “Nobody expects us to beat [Locust Grove], so let’s go over there and prove some people wrong.”

With the win, the Mill advances to a second round matchup with defending AAAAA state champion Locust Grove. The first two games of the series are on Oct. 18, with a third game scheduled for Oct. 19, if necessary. Thursday’s games are at 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at Locust Grove High School.

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