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Lady Raiders jump to 3-1 on 2016 season

By MICHAEL MURRAY
michael.murray@americustimesrecorder.com

The Southland Academy Lady Raiders’ softball team has gotten off to a strong start in their 2016 season. The team participated in a preseason warm-up tournament in Albany at the Deerfield-Windsor School (DWS) before going on to rack up a 3-1 record to date on the regular season.
The preseason tourney helped the Lady Raiders prepare for their season opener against Southwest Georgia Academy (SGA). The team took a 7-5 loss in that match.
The Southland ladies made up for lost ground in their ensuing trio of contests, earning a significant 10-1 victory over DWS on August 18 and another, 7-1, over Westwood four days later. Southland took their third win of the season on the road on Aug. 25, traveling to Thomasville to defeat Brookwood 18-8.
Lady Raider head coach, John Brady, recently spoke with the Times-Recorder to discuss the team’s season to date.
“We’re off to a respectable start…” he stated. “We had good pitching from Brittany Tyler and Savanna Swann throughout the whole tournament [at Deerfield-Windsor]. We played really good defense and got some timely hitting… It’s always good to go there and play. The girls have a good time and it’s a good chance for them to bond, to get to know each other a little better, and build trust. It was very productive… We have a lot of new faces so we’re trying to learn how everybody can fit in. It was good, as far as that goes. We played well for the most part.”

Michael Murray/Americus Times-Recorder:   Southland’s Hannah Philpott (rear) fires the ball off to first baseman, Kaitlyn Smith (foreground) to dispatch a Valwood batter on August 22 in Americus.

Michael Murray/Americus Times-Recorder:
Southland’s Hannah Philpott (rear) fires the ball off to first baseman, Kaitlyn Smith (foreground) to dispatch a Valwood batter on August 22 in Americus.

The Lady Raiders lost their opener against SGA, 7-5, after having gone over a week without playing due to rain delays. “I expected some rust, and there was some,” Brady said. “We made a couple of mistakes in the first inning and gave up three quick [unearned] runs. After that, we outscored them 5-4.”
The Lady Raiders came back to tie the game 5-5 in the fifth frame, but the Lady Warriors pulled back ahead by two runs in the bottom of the frame to clinch the win.
Tyler pitched two innings to open the match, giving up three hits and no earned runs while striking out two batters. Swann tossed the final four innings, giving up two earned runs and striking out one batter.
Kaitlyn Smith set the pace for the team from the batters’ box, contributing two RBIs to the Southland cause. Abby Dent and Olivia Perry each connected on two hits, with Perry nailing a double. These two each contributed one RBI. Tyler crossed the plate twice for the Lady Raiders.
“SGA’s got a really good team,” Brady concluded. “We made some mistakes early that cost us but, ultimately, after taking a week off…, I felt like it was a step in the right direction for us.”
Not to be kept down for long, Southland’s girls soon returned to their home field to take on the DWS Lady Knights.
The team got off to a strong start in the region match-up, with Swann deftly dispatching DW’s first three potential batters.
Opening the bottom of the first, Swann drew a walk and immediately proceeded to steal second base.
The Lady Raiders’ next three batters, Tyler, Dent, and Smith, drew walks as well. Smith’s walk pushed Swann past home plate, giving the Southland ladies a 1-0 edge early in the contest.
Perry followed with a drive past the shortstop, bringing in Tyler and doubling the Lady Raiders’ advantage before Hannah Philpot connected on another on the ensuing at-bat to bring in Mary-Martin Shealy (pinch-running for Dent) and Smith. The Lady Raiders’ final score of the first frame came off of a Holly McCain bash deep into left field which completed Perry’s round trip.
Once again, it was three up, three down for Deerfield’s batters and the home team quickly returned to the dugout. Philpott batted in the Lady Raiders’ sole run of the second with a single that brought in Shealy.
Like clockwork, the Lady Raiders sent a trio of opponents directly back to the dugout in the top of the third before returning to the batters’ box to add another two runs to their tally. Cassi Bass exploited a Lady Knight throwing error to make a break for the plate and Ally Dent came sliding home after a Smith sacrifice fly.
DW’s batters woke up in the top of the fourth, connecting on the team’s first hit of the game and bringing in what would turn out to be the their only run of the match. The team’s defense tightened up as well in the bottom of the frame, as the Lady Knights held their hosts to only four at-bats.
In the top of the fifth and final inning, Swann and the Southland defense made short work of three potential hitters before returning to bat. Abby Dent opened with a single and Smith took a bean ball to put two runners on base. The pair advanced on an errant pitch before heading home on a Perry sacrifice fly, ending the match 10-1.
Swann pitched five innings in the win, striking out three batters and giving up one earned run.
Swann also batted 3-3 in the contest, scoring twice and logging three stolen bases. Perry batted 2-2 in the match, bringing two runners home. Smith added two RBIs as well on her sole at-bat of the match. McCain blasted a double to bring home another runner while Philpott added one RBI. Abby Dent crossed the plate once, as did Cassi Bass, who also stole one base.
“That win got us off to a good start in region play; 1-0,” Brady said.
With their first win on the books, the Lady Raiders returned to the diamond on Aug. 22 to take on Westwood.
“[The Westwood game] was one that I was anxious about because I knew that their pitcher had given us some trouble last year,” Brady said, describing the match-up. “She did again in this game until the fifth inning when we finally got it going.”
The Lady Wildcats took an early lead in the match, scoring one earned run in the initial frame. The Lady Raiders tied it up in the fourth after Perry singled and stole second. A sacrifice fly from Sara Beth Storey brought Perry back home to equalize the score.
From there, it was all Southland, as the team rallied in the fifth to add three more runs and put the game out of reach.
Swann stole two bases and crossed the plate twice in the match. Storey, Perry, Smith, and Reese Roland each contributed one RBI, with Perry stealing one base. Tyler, McCain, and Bass each added one run to the Southland total, with Bass adding an additional stolen base.
The following day, the Lady Raiders took on the Valwood Lady Valiants, but the match was called due to rain in the fourth frame. When the game resumes, the Lady Raiders will begin ahead 4-3 with two outs and the bases loaded.
“We had the momentum on our side, so I hate that the rains came,” said Brady after the match was called.
I’m excited about the way we’re playing right now…,” he continued. “We have a lot of work to do but, at the same time, I think that this is a team that’s going to get a lot better as the year goes on,” Brady concluded. “Right now, I think we’re heading in the right direction and doing some good things. It’s a great group of girls. We’re having a good time.”
The details of the victory over Brookwood were not available at press time.