Lady Raiders take first season loss to SGA, respond with come-back win over Tiftarea
By MICHAEL MURRAY
AMERICUS – Fresh off of a pair of solid region wins, the Southland Academy Lady Raiders softball team returned to the diamond in Americus on August 25 to face the Southwest Georgia Academy (SGA) Lady Warriors. The Lady Raiders kept the game’s score tight until SGA sparked a rally in the top of the seventh off the bat of Lanie Bradford that ended up netting the team seven late runs to bring the game’s final score to 11-3.
Unwilling to stay down for long, Southland’s girls promptly geared up to return to the field on August 27, pulling in an exciting 10-9 come-from-behind win against the Tiftarea Lady Panthers.
With these two games under their belts, the Lady Raiders slide to a 3-1 overall record on the season. The team’s region record jumps to 3-0. The August 25 win boosted the Lady Warriors to an overall 3-0 record on the season. Tiftarea’s record was unavailable at press time.
In the August 25 match, the Lady Warriors pulled ahead in the bottom of the first, with a double by Brooke Hornsby bringing in the game’s first runner. The Lady Raiders answered in the bottom of the frame after a dropped pitch allowed Brandi Sellars to scramble to first base. Sellars quickly stole second base before Christina Davis smashed a double, advancing her to third. With Abby Dent at the plate, SGA’s catcher let another pitch get away from her and Sellars was able to make her way home, evening the score 1-1.
When SGA returned to the dugout, the team wasted no time gaining a series of hits that would bring in three more runners, putting the team ahead 4-1 before the Lady Raiders got another turn at the pate. The bottom of the frame proved unproductive for the home team, however, as only one hit was logged by Cassi Bass before the team headed back out into the field..
A grounder to Davis at first and an expert strikeout by pitcher, Megan Burke, gained two quick outs for the Lady Raiders. A pair of singles from the SGA put the Lady Warriors within striking distance, but Dent snagged a foul ball to end the first half of the frame.
The beginning of Southland’s turn at the bat saw Sellars draw a walk after racking up a full count before being advanced to second off a sacrifice bunt by Savanna Swann. Sellars then stole her second base of the game, allowing her to come home as another pitch got away from SGA’s catcher.
The Lady Raiders made short work of SGA’s batters in the top of the fourth, giving up one hit before heading back in to the dugout. The Lady Warriors responded in kind, keeping any runners from crossing the bag, but giving up hits to Bass and Kaitlyn Smith.
Three up, three down for the Lady Raiders, back on defense in the bottom of the fifth as Burke added another strikeout to her stats, Dent snagged another foul, and Swann pulled down a pop fly.
The Lady Raiders narrowed the gap in the bottom of the frame after Swan reached third on an error, to be brought in by a hard line drive by Davis on her next at-bat, bringing the score to 4-3. A grounder by Dent then pushed Davis to second before she managed to steal third. With another grounder by Olivia Perry, Davis saw a chance to make a dash for home. Unfortunately for Southland fans, SGA’s pitcher, Karsyn Karver, was able to get the ball home quickly enough to put her out as she slid into the plate.
The sixth inning proved uneventful for both teams, with neither recording a hit.
SGA found their footing in the top of the seventh, however. After Sellars caught the first batter’s pop fly in center field, the Lady Warriors managed to spark a rally that would net the team seven points on 11 at-bats. The Lady Warriors steadily increased the gap before Burke was able to close the inning with a strike out.
When Southland stepped up to the plate, Karver’s heated pitching stifled the Lady Raiders’ attempts at a comeback, ending the game with SGA up 11-3.
Burke pitched all seven innings, gaining five strikeouts and walking only one batter.
The Lady Raiders logged eight hits, with Bass and Davis each contributing two. Davis gained one RBI in the contest.
After dusting themselves off following the defeat, the Southland’s girls began busily preparing for the team’s upcoming match against Tiftarea.
The team returned to the diamond and got a strong start in the match, putting two quick runs on the books in the first inning, with a hard shot by Davis bringing in Swann and Sellars.
The Lady Raiders ran into some trouble in the top of the second, however, when Tiftarea sparked a rally that would end up putting the Lady Panthers ahead 7-2 until the top of the fourth. Tiftarea widened that margin in the fourth frame after Jordan Summer managed to draw a walk that loaded the bases. A pair of grounders by Abby Carswell and Hannah Gunter brought in two more runners, giving the team a nice, comfortable 9-2 lead when they surrendered the plate.
With the Lady Raiders back in the dugout, the team began a hard push to dig themselves out of the hole. Smith got a base hit with a grounder past third before Hannah Philpot pushed her to second with a hard drive to centerfield. Sellars then drew a walk to load the bases before Swann nailed a single that allowed Kara Hubbard, who was pinch-running for Smith to cross the plate. Davis then lent her batting talents in the form of a hard double that brought in Sellars and Philpot, narrowing the team’s deficit to 9-5 when they returned to the field.
After making short work of Tiftarea’s batters, the Lady Raiders made some big moves in the bottom of the fifth stanza.
A powerful drive deep into centerfield from Olivia Perry opened up the frame for Southland’s girls with a single before she was advanced to second by a grounder off the bat of Smith. When Philpot stepped up to the plate, Tiftarea’s pitcher managed to get two strikes past her before laying one up in the sweet spot, giving the batter a chance to swing for the fences and knock the ball deep into centerfield. Perry took the opportunity to break for home and post one more run for the Lady Raiders.
The action didn’t stop there, however. On her turn at the bat, Bass plopped a strategic bunt to load the bases and Davis slugged one into right field to bring in the final two of her six RBIs. With Hubbard (running for Smith) and Philpot bringing it all back home, the Lady Raiders found themselves one point down at 9-8 when Dent took the plate.
Dent hit a shot that danced along the third base line, evading Tiftarea’s defenders and adding a double to her stats. As Bass and Davis crossed the plate, the Lady Raiders found themselves in the lead for the first time since the second inning, pulling ahead 10-9.
At this point, the team just had to hold off Tiftarea’s batters to take the victory. The Lady Panthers had six more batters step up to the plate over the next two innings. Southland’s girls made short work of these opponents with Burke grabbing a pair of strikeouts, Sellars snagging two fly balls in the outfield, and Swann making a superbly executed diving catch.
Tiftarea’s final batter hit a slow grounder that Burke quickly grabbed and fired off to Davis, who quickly tagged first base, solidifying the 10-9 victory for the Lady Raiders.
Davis led the Lady Raiders’ offense, bringing in six RBIs on three hits. Dent brought in two RBIs while Philpot and Swann each contributed one.
Burke pitched all seven innings for the Lady Raiders, gaining five strikeouts and holding the Lady Panthers to only five hits. The Lady Raiders gained 13 hits in the contest.
On the comeback victory, Lady Raider head coach, John Brady told the Times-Recorder, “I was a little disappointed in the second inning, when it seemed like our team started to fall apart. Fortunately, we were able to make a comeback. We have a young team and I think that we will continue to improve as the season continues. I appreciated all of the effort and character from all of our players. It showed guts and heart to continue giving it their best even when they were down 9-2. I think that a lot of people would have given up in that situation, but our players stuck in there and we got a big region win. That shows a lot of character for our team.”
Southland’s girls continue their season on Sept. 1, traveling to Thomasville to face the Brookwood Lady Warriors. The team will host the Westfield Lady Hornets the next afternoon in Americus before hitting the road for Valdosta on Sept. 3 to battle the Valwood Lady Valiants.
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