MONTGOMERY – It was a tough loss for the Cullman Lady Bearcats as they came up short to Southside, 6-2, in the semifinals of the loser’s bracket in the 2016 6A State Softball Tournament this afternoon.
Emilee Coker of Southside decided to take things in her own hands in the top of the first. She drew a lead-off walk, then stole second and third. Mollie Free would then ground to Claire Jenkins who would look her back to the bag before throwing out Free. However, as Cullman threw the ball back to Olivia Schwaiger in the circle, Coker took off and stole home for the first run of the game to give Southside the 1-0 lead in the second elimination game of the day for the Lady Cats. The slap-hitting Lady Panthers would plate another run in the second inning on a single and stolen base by Hunter Ashcraft. She would cross the plate on an RBI single by Brittney Kidd.
The Lady Cats would roar back in the third to tie the game. Tiffani Schwaiger would slap an inning opening single and Kylie Witcher would follow with a base on balls to bring up Jenkins with two on and no one out. She would crush the first pitch she saw, but it would go foul. It was enough for Southside Head Coach Angie Sanders to intentionally walk Jenkins to load the bases with no one out. Taiya Ponder would then come to the plate and blast an RBI single to short that scored Tiffani Schwaiger. Two batters later, Hannah Morton would hit a sac fly to center to score Witcher and tie the game at 2-2.
The action went back and forth over the next three innings before Southside broke through with a manufactured run in the top of the sixth. Morgan Hollaway earned a walk to open the inning. She moved up to second on a sac bunt by Mallory Smith. Ashcroft was the next batter to the dish and she immediately delivered a run-scoring single to put the Lady Panthers on top 3-2, giving Cullman just six outs to make a comeback.
Cullman started the sixth with two quick outs, but then quickly loaded the bases with back-to-back singles and the second intentional walk to Jenkins, but they could not score as courtesy runner Bailey Swann was picked off at third.
Southside added three huge runs in the top of the seventh on four hits and two walks, one with the bases loaded. This would put the game out of reach for Cullman as they would fail to score in the bottom half of the seventh, falling to Southside 6-2.
Cullman had five hits, Ponder, Sierra Easterwood, Olivia Schwaiger, Tiffani Schwaiger and Witcher, to go along with their two runs scored by Tiffani Schwaiger and Witcher. The RBIs went to Ponder and Morton.
Olivia Schwaiger finished the game with six strikeouts.
We at The Cullman Tribune would like to extend our congratulations to the Cullman Lady Bearcats for their impressive run in the 2016 AHSAA 6A State Softball Championship.