Southland Lady Raiders improve to 6-4 with Brookwood defeat

Published 1:03 pm Wednesday, August 30, 2017

After getting off to a rocky start in the 2017 season, the Southland Academy Lady Raiders softball team has fought their way back to a 6-4 overall record. The Lady Raiders are currently 2-1 in Region 3-IAAA (as of press time) on the young season.
Southland’s girls kicked off this year’s action on Aug. 5, battling the Westfield Lady Hornets in the Trinity Dublin tournament. The Lady Raiders suffered a 7-1 loss in their season opener. The Americus team returned to the diamond the following day to take on Trinity Christisn (Sharpsburg). After a back-and-forth clash, the Lady Raiders eventually took a narrow 7-6 defeat in the tilt.
Southland began to turn their luck around on Aug. 7 when the team hosted the Southwest Georgia Academy Lady Warriors and pulled ahead early to earn a definitive 6-3 win in their home opener.
The Lady Raiders rode this momentum into their next match-up, on Aug. 10 against the Westwood Lady Wildcats in Camilla. The Lady Raiders earned their second “W” of the year in a 13-0, five-inning blowout of the Lady Wildcats.
The Southland ladies then took on Citizen’s Christian Academy on Aug. 12, falling behind after their guests sparked a third-inning rally. The Lady Raiders lost the game 5-2 despite strong performances from Savanna Swann, Olivia Perry, Holly McCain, and Sara Beth Storey, who each recorded multiple hits in the tilt.
That same afternoon, the Lady Raiders faced off against SGA once more, jumping ahead early to earn a 5-4 victory.
Two days later, the Southland girls dusted themselves off and took the field to test their skills against the Terrell Academy Lady Eagles. In a four-and-a-half inning match-up, the Lady Raiders shutout their guests 10-0.
On Aug. 17, the Lady Raiders opened Region 3-IAAA competition against the Deerfield-Windsor Lady Knights.
In their conference curtain-raiser, the Lady Raiders took a significant 15-3 win over their longtime rivals, collecting 15 hits in the process.
The following week, on Aug. 22, the Lady Raiders hit the road for Valdosta to battle the Valwood Lady Valiants. Valwood pulled ahead early in the game and the Southland crew didn’t manage to get their bats going until the fifth inning, during which they sparked a rally that netted the visitors three runs. Despite their comeback attempts, the Lady Raiders fell 6-4 in the match-up.
The Lady Raiders returned to their home turf on Aug. 24 to face the Brookwood Lady Warriors. In the tight test of the teams’ skills, the Southland crew pulled ahead early when Reese Roland reached on an error and completed her round trip on a Hayleigh Warren triple in the bottom of the second frame.
The guests added a run of their own in the top of the third to tie the score 1-1.
Southland added the game-deciding run in the bottom of the fifth when Alli Dent kicked off the inning with a single. Swann followed with a sacrifice bunt to allow Dent to take off for second base. Perry followed with a single that gave Dent plenty of time to make her way home from second and bring the score to 2-1, where it would stay for the remainder of the game due to a strong defensive performance from the hosts in the final innings.
Swann pitched all seven innings in the Brookwood tilt, striking out eight batters and giving up three walks.
Dent set the pace for the Lady Raiders from the plate, scattering two hits in the match. Brittney Tyler contributed a single to the Lady Raider win while Warren connected on a triple that netted the team one RBI. Perry also contributed a single and an RBI.
Roland and Swann each offered up sacrifices to advance the Southland cause.
The Lady Raiders took on Westfield on Aug. 29. The results of this match-up were not available at press time.
Southland head coach, Rusty Tondee, in his first year leading the Lady Raider program, recently spoke with the Times-Recorder to discuss the team.
Tondee told the Times-Recorder that there are three senior players lending their experience to the team this season, Swann, Tyler, and Perry. “They do a great job for us. They go out and they play hard and they lead by example,” he said.
“So far this year, Savanna Swann has done an outstanding job pitching for us. She’s been our number-one pitcher so far,” Tondee continued. “Brittney Tyler has filled in as our number-two pitcher. Olivia Perry is having a really good year behind the plate, both defensively and offensively. “
On the team’s younger players, Tondee told the Times-Recorder, “We have a lot of freshmen playing. We have five or six freshmen at any given time starting in our lineup, led by returning All-Region player, Sara Beth Storey and Holly McCain. Another one that’s having a really good year, hitting close to .500 right now, is Alli Dent. She plays centerfield when Savanna [Swann] pitches and she plays left field when Brittney [Tyler] pitches. She’s our leadoff hitter. She’s doing really well too.”
“We can start either five or six ninth-graders on any given day, depending on how we juggle our lineup,” he said. “It’s pretty much a given that we’ll start five ninth-graders every game.”
Tondee went on to say that many of these young players are making great progress on the diamond as the season continues. “Every at-bat they step up to and every game that they play in, it’s just that much more experience,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have three more years of it too.”
“Dent had four hits in one game [against Westwood], which was pretty cool,” he added. “Savanna [Swann] has had three hits in a game. Holly McCain has had three hits in a game… We’ve done well, offensively. We’ve given away some runs in the field at times and we’re trying to improve on that. The more games we play, the more experience we’ll have. We’re going to do a better job of playing defense.”
Tondee added that the team’s pitching staff has been a valuable asset to the team. “We’ve gotten solid pitching out of the girls that we’ve asked to pitch,” he said. “We just have to put together a complete game. We’ve either been pretty good, offensively and had a shaky game in the field or we’ve had a really god game in the field and our bats weren’t where we wanted them to be.
“[Swann’s] last two games have definitely been her best two games of the year so far. When we beat Brookwood 2-1, and, even in the loss to Valwood. She gave up six runs [in that game]. Five of them were unearned that we gave up in the first two innings. She was very strong in those two games. She’s getting better with every game she plays.
“From what I understand, this is only her second year of pitching. She is a terrific centerfielder; a tremendous defensive player. She can cover because of her speed… She’s doing an outstanding job. She just improves; she gets more command of her pitches every game. That’s good because we want to get better by the end of the year. She’s done an outstanding job.”