Panthers are county champs
By Stephen Dawkins
Jemison was an underdog in the Chilton County Softball Tournament, but coach Leighsa Robinson knew her team was close to turning its season around.
The Panthers had a 1-12 record, hadn’t won a county championship since 2005, and had to deal with a team—Maplesville—that made the state tournament last year and is ranked No. 9 in Class 1A this year and the defending county champion—rival Chilton County.
Surprising everyone except perhaps Robinson, tournament host Jemison won four straight games—including two one-run decisions against CCHS on March 27—to claim the county championship.
“I knew we had it in us,” Robinson said after the final out had been made in a 2-1 win. “We’ve been playing good the past couple of weeks—one inning always snags us.”
With the Panthers down 1-0, Shelby Lopez doubled with one out in the fifth inning. After a sacrifice for the second out, Tabatha Cork drove Lopez home on a hit that glanced just off the glove of leaping Chilton first baseman Lauren Stewart.
Tiffany Guin doubled to plate Cork and give Jemison a 2-1 lead it wouldn’t surrender, but the possibility of that one inning that would doom Jemison always loomed.
CCHS got the game tying run to third base with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning and had runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth. That’s when Lindsey Parrish hit a hard line drive right at Jemison shortstop Lopez, who caught the ball and was able to get out the runner leaning too far off second base and basically end the threat.
The seventh inning, meanwhile, was uneventful—until the celebration began.
“My group of seniors was hungry for this,” Robinson said about a class that includes Brandi Baker, Cork, Samantha Glass, Codi Mims, Amber Simmons and Dallis Vanderslice. “This tournament just proves the leadership I have on this team.”
Chilton scored its run in the bottom of the second inning when Macee Thomas singled with two outs to score Brooke Lewis, but Guin, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, held the Tigers in check the rest of game, allowing only five hits.
In fact, Guin pitched all 28 innings the Panthers were on the field in the tournament and allowed only seven runs. She was on the mound when Jemison topped CCHS, 3-2, earlier in the day. Because of that result, CCHS would have had to beat Jemison twice to win the tournament.
“We wanted to win really bad,” said Guin, a sophomore. “I just tried to get as many three-up, three-downs as possible. I knew I had a great defense behind me.”
Guin also pitched in wins over Maplesville (8-3) and Isabella (4-1) on March 26.
In Game 1, Mims and Cork hit home runs in the first and second innings versus Maplesville.
In Game 3 of the tournament, Isabella’s pitching held the Jemison Panthers in check for most of the game, but the Panthers were quick around the bases from the first inning. Lopez and Tanya Liveoak both scored on balls that got away from the Isabella catcher, and Vanderslice sent home two runs on a single.
Guin struck out eight Isabella batters.
Thorsby, meanwhile, went 1-2 in tournament play.
The Rebels defeated Verbena, 3-1, on Friday but lost to CCHS, 16-1, later in the day.
In the sixth inning of Game 2 of the tournament, Ashlin Hilyer, Kelly Nord and Lindsay Pease each had RBI for Thorsby, and Pease struck out 10 batters.
Sharonda Cooper scored Thorsby’s only run against CCHS.
The Rebels were knocked out the tournament by a 10-5 loss to Maplesville on Saturday.
Scott Mims contributed to this report.