Lady Raiders finish regular region season 7-1, look to tiebreaker with Tiftarea for region crown
By MICHAEL MURRAY
The Southland Academy Raiders have been enjoying an impressive winning streak in Georgia Independent School Association Region 3-AAA competition.
With seven region wins and one under their belts, the Lady Raiders have secured themselves a spot in the state playoffs, scheduled to begin in October. The Lady Raiders are currently 7-2 overall.
Lady Raider Head Coach, John Brady, recently told the Times-Recorder, “I don’t think we can finish any worse than second. The worst we can do is have two losses and I think the next team has three already. We want to win the region for the third year in a row, so that’s our goal right now.”
The path to the top for the Lady Raiders hasn’t always seemed so secure, however, as the team has had to scrap their way back into a few games from some serious deficits.
The Southland girls opened their most recent string of region victories with a match against the Valwood Lady Valiants, which was postponed earlier this season due to rain. When the teams returned to the diamond to complete the game more than two weeks after it was initially scheduled, the Lady Raiders pressed forward to snag a 12-7 win.
The Lady Raiders then went on to deal an 18-8 defeat to the Brookwood Lady Warriors before taking a hiatus from region play to take on non-region foes, the Westfield Lady Hornets. After a tough match-up, the Lady Raiders saw their winning streak spoiled with a 7-0 loss.
Returning to conference play, Southland’s girls dutifully brushed themselves off and traveled to Albany on Sept. 8 for a region tilt against the Deerfield-Windsor Lady Knights, dealing a 16-2 blow to their hosts due, in part, to an impressive seventh-inning rally that netted the team 11 runs.
The Southland crew rode this momentum into their rematch with Valwood on Sept. 13, defeating their hosts 8-6 before hosting Brookwood once more and grabbing a 4-1 win to cap off the streak.
Southland’s girls looked to put the region season away with a pair of contests against the Tiftarea Lady Panthers. The Lady Raiders won the first match 9-3 on Sept. 19 and returned to Americus on Sept. 22 to have their perfect region season ruined after a 6-5 defeat.With matching region records, the teams will go into a tiebreaker round to determine the region champions. The details of the upcoming test are yet to be determined.
“We’re still making a few mistakes here and there, but we’re continuing to get wins and that’s really all that matters, I guess,” said Brady, on the team’s string of region successes.
When the team’s first match-up against Valwood was cut short, the Lady Raiders were up 4-3 with the bases loaded.
Southland didn’t miss a beat when restarting the action. Olivia Perry stepped up to the plate when the game resumed and immediately drove in a pair of runs to advance Southland’s lead to 6-3. Not willing to give up without a fight, the Lady Valiants fought their way back into contention, tying the game 6-6 in the following frame.
The Lady Raiders went on to score six runs in the bottom of the fifth to pull ahead 12-6.
Sarah Beth Storey led off with a base hit and Holly McCain followed with a double. Savannah Swann then drew a walk and Brittany Tyler reached on a fielder’s choice. Abby Dent then walked and drove in a run before Perry got another hit and drove in a couple more runs.
Hannah Philpott capped off the rally with a hit and two RBIs.
“We just got it rolling there in the bottom of the fifth,” Brady said. “We ended up getting five hits in that inning.”
The Lady Raiders gave up one run in the top of the sixth and ended up winning 12-7.
Swann pitched the entire game, giving up six hits, two walks, and three earned runs while striking out nine batters.
Tyler scored two runs and batted in one runner. Dent hit two for three, crossing the plate twice and contributing a pair of RBIs. Perry brought in four RBIs while Philpott added another two. Storey batted 3-4 with two runs scored. McCain nailed two doubles on her three connections.
“It was pretty big for us to get that win. Valwood is kind of a scary team,” Brady stated. “They have four or five girls that swing really well at the top of the lineup. They play good infield defense and they have pretty solid pitching… I was glad to get those two wins.”
The Lady Raiders then went on to face Brookwood.
“We didn’t play particularly well in the first two innings off that game,” Brady said. We got down 7-3. We had to scrap and fight our way back, but we finally tied the game up in the top of the third and righted the ship. [Tyler] pitched really well in this game and we ended up pulling away in the end after the third inning.”
The Southland girls clawed their way back into the match in the third stanza, tying the score 7-7 before exploding in the fifth to add three more. They scored one more in the sixth, and seven in the final frame to earn the 18-8 win.
Tyler stole the show for the Lady Raiders, batting 3-5 with three RBIs while pitching five and two-thirds innings, giving up one earned run. Tyler struck out four batters and walked none while allowing only three hits.
Holly McCain had a huge day in this game as well, hitting 3-5, to contribute five RBIs and three doubles.
Perry and Philpott each hit 2-4 and scored a pair of runs.
The Lady Raiders’ luck ran short in their next contest when, despite, the team playing what Brady described as one of their better games of the season from a defensive standpoint. The team succumbed to a tough Westfield defense to take their first loss of September.
“In one inning, they got four runs,” Brady said. “Three of the four were earned. They have a good team. We made one mistake, really, in the whole game. We played pretty well, but we couldn’t get a big hit… We had runners all over the place in the first two or three innings. We left six runners on base in the first three innings… We just had some opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of that could have made the game better.”
Tyler pitched three innings and gave up three hits resulting in four earned runs while gaining two strikeouts. Swann hurled three innings with a strikeout and two earned runs allowed.
Kaitlyn Smith had the big hit of the game with a double.
On the Lady Raiders’ significant 16-2 victory over Deerfield-Windsor, Brady said, “That score is a little deceiving because they played really well. Their pitcher gave us a lot of trouble. She doesn’t throw very hard. We had a hard time making adjustments, especially after facing Valwood the day before (when the match was resumed). Their pitcher throws the ball pretty well, so we had a hard time adjusting to this girl… She tired a little in the top of the seventh. She walked a couple and we got a couple of hits. The next thing we knew, we had finally built a big cushion.”
Cassi Bass, Tyler, Dent, and Philpott each added RBIs to give the team the edge going into the seventh frame.
The Lady Raiders entered the final inning with a 5-2 lead before the team’s batters lit up and began blasting every pitch that was launched. Nearly every player in the Lady Raiders’ batting order connected and made their way home during the scoring spree.
Abby Dent hit 3-5 with two RBIs. Abby Lightner connected on her sole at-bat of the contest to add two more RBIs. Smith hit 2-2 with two runs scored and an RBI. Storey hit 2-3 as she contributed two RBIs and a double. Tyler was 2-4 with three RBIS. Bass was 2-4 with one run scored. Alli Dent went 1-1 with an RBI.
The Lady Raiders let that wave of excitement carry them into their next tilt, a rematch with Valwood.
“They scored one in the first,” Brady said, on the game. “We finally answered in the top of the third after Swann and Abby Dent walked. Smith got a big double, with two outs and two strikes on the board, and drove both of those two runs in. Storey followed with another two-out hit to drive Smith in and make it 3-1.”
In the bottom of the fourth, Valwood scored three unearned runs in response, bringing the score to 4-3.
The Lady Raiders tied it up in the top of the fifth, with Perry leading off with a walk. Smith got another base hit before Storey belted a single and brought in an RBI to tie the game 4-4.
In the bottom of the sixth, Valwood led off with a triple. The following batter got a base hit and drove her in to take the lead 5-4.
“In the top of the sixth, we scored four runs to make it 8-5,” Brady said. “Swann led off with a base hit. McCain reached on an error, followed by a pair of walks which drove in a run. Philpott followed with a base hit and a couple of RBIs (on another two-out rescue).”
Valwood scored one earned run in the bottom of the seventh to bring the final score to 8-6.
“It was a good game. It was exciting and a little nerve-wracking for us,” Brady concluded.
Smith hit 3-4 with a double and two RBIs. Storey hit 2-2 with three RBIs.
Tyler pitched four innings, striking out two batters while giving up five hits.
Swann wrapped up the game’s final three innings, striking out three batters and relinquishing two earned runs.
On the team’s ensuing test against Brookwood, Brady cited similar issues in adjusting to a different pitching style, after facing Valwood as the team had previously had to overcome.
“It was a well-played game, defensively,” he said. “Their one run was earned in the fifth inning.”
Tyler went the distance for the Lady Raiders, pitching seven innings and striking out two batters as she gave up six total hits.
“All four of our runs were unearned, I think,” Brady added. “We took advantage of a couple of throwing errors. We scored two in the third and two in the fourth for the 4-1 win.”
Smith batted 1-2 with one run scored. Storey hit 2-3 with a run scored. Lightner was 1-2 with an RBI and a run scored. Swann managed to convert a bunt into an inside-the-park homerun after exploiting a Brookwood throwing error, adding two RBIs.
Details of the Lady Raiders’ two matches against Tiftarea were not available at press time.
The Lady Raiders will return to the diamond on Sept. 28 to complete the non-region portion of their season against the Crisp Academy Wildcats in Americus. The following day, the team will travel to Dawson for the regular season closer against Terrell Academy.
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