Panthers take firstPublished 8:43pm Wednesday, March 27, 2013
WILLIAMSTON — On a brisk, teeth-chattering cold afternoon Northside’s nerves were a little cooler as the Panthers rallied to overcome a seventh inning one-run deficit against Riverside to slide into sole possession of first place with a 4-2 win over the Knights.
Just a year ago, the Panthers failed to make the playoffs, but as the softball season approaches the midway point they find themselves alone at the top of a loaded Four Rivers Conference with a 6-0 (5-0) record.
“Being undefeated at the top of the conference, we haven’t done that in a while,” Northside coach Jack Beirne said.
Trailing 2-1 in the final frame, Northside got a boost from its younger players as freshman Mackensi Swain got the rally started with a line drive base hit and would move to third after Riverside misplayed a rocket to center field by sophomore Kelsey Lang.
The Knights’ error gave the Panthers runners at second and third with no outs as freshman Kendall Alligood stepped to the plate and drilled a two-run double to score the game-tying and winning runs.
Alligood would come home one batter later on a ground out to short by sister Brittney Alligood to take a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
Lang would earn the win by scattering six hits in seven innings, while her counterpart Lawson Perry fanned six in seven innings and allowed eight hits in a losing effort.
The loss was a tough one for Riverside coach Richie Ange, who chalked it up to just another night playing in the dangerous Four Rivers Conference.
“I think we probably have, if not the best 1-A conference, one of the best in the state, especially this year,” Ange said. “There are so many qualities teams. You just have to lace ’em up and play every night and the team that makes the least amount of mistakes is going to come out on top.”
Riverside (7-2, 4-1) trailed 1-0 after Cheyenne Franks hit and RBI single in top of the second, but countered in the home half of the inning to tie the game. Dasia Moore led off with a walk and advanced two bases on a Rachel Baker sac bunt. Moore would score on a D’Asya Wilson single.
Riverside took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth when Moore tagged up from third base on a deep fly from Wilson and narrowly escaped the tag from catcher Kendall Alligood
With a 4-2 lead in hand, Lang began the bottom of the seventh by recording two strikeouts. However, Riverside threatened when Madison Brandon reached on an error before Kasey Hall singled. Cleanup hitter Marieva Daniels represented the game-winning run as she stepped to the plate, but Lang was able to lockdown and get her to ground out to second to end the game and kickoff a wild Northside celebration.
Despite low 40-degree temperatures that forced Northside players to cover themselves in blankets during the game, the Panthers’ dugout was in good spirits throughout and seemingly willed themselves to win during that crucial seventh inning rally.
The scene was a sight to behold for Beirne, who has placed a heavy emphasis on team bonding this season.
“Our team chemistry has gotten better throughout the year. I know it’s only six games in but the chemistry has gotten better and the girls are playing together,” Beirne said. “Playing Camden was a tough game too but the girls pulled together and have created a different chemistry.”
Northside 010 000 3 — 4 8 1
Riverside 010 001 0 — 2 6 1
WP: Kelsey Lang; LP: Lawson Perry
Hitting: N — Cheyenne Franks 1-4 (RBI), Mackensi Swain 1-3, Kendall Alligood 2-4 (2 RBI), Jordan Woolard 1-4, Brittney Alligood 1-3 (RBI), Taonya Stanley 2-4 (2B); R — Leah Burch 1-4, Madison Brandon 2-4, Kasey Hall 1-3, Dasia Moore 1-2, D’Asya Wilson 1-3 (RBI).