JHS dedicates county title win to former Panther
By Brandon Sumrall / Special to the Advertiser
The 2018 Chilton County softball tournament got under way on Thursday night, however it was with heavy hearts that the county softball teams took to the field for this year’s event. As news of 2017 Jemison graduate and former Lady Panther Jessica Paschal’s auto accident spread across the county earlier in the week, so did the outpouring of love and support.
Yellow ribbons, yellow bows and signs galore popped up from every team and softball and baseball diamond across the county. With heavy hearts but a clear goal, for the Jemison Lady Panthers there was only one thing left to do: win this one for Jess.
A 13-0 win over the Maplesville Red Devils in the championship game would see the Panthers accomplish that goal while being named this year’s county tournament champion.
With pool play from Thursday and Friday out of the way, elimination play began on Saturday morning. The Thorsby Lady Rebels would get the final day started by eliminating the Verbena Red Devils 11-1. Up next Maplesville would take to the field and advance thanks to a 12-8 win over the Isabella Mustangs.
Jemison advanced to the championship round after a 7-3 win over the Rebels while Maplesville would punch their ticket to the final game with a 9-3 victory over Chilton County.
With the teams set, this years county tournament championship match up would get off to a bit of a slow start. A pair of fielders’ choice singles by the Rebels and a three up and three down inning for the Panthers would see the first inning come to a close with no score for either team.
A one-out double by Gracie Harrison would be followed by a single from Laci Cook. However, a pair of ground balls to the right side would result in two outs that would snuff the Red Devils’ scoring opportunity while sending the game to the bottom half of the second inning.
Erristen Evans and Chloe Eddins would get the inning started with a pair of singles that would be followed by a bases-loading hit by pitch to McKenzie Cleckley. A two-RBI single by Kelsey Lowery put the first points of the game on the board followed by a bases-clearing double by Hannah Corbin. Add in a RBI single from Emma Alred, and the Panthers would tack on seven runs in the inning.
A lone walk to Karley Smitherman in the top of the third would be of little help for the Red Devils and would give way to the bottom half of the inning, where the Panthers would tack on two more.
A one-out double by Lowery, along with an intentional walk to Corbin, would set up a two-RBI single by Alred that would give Jemison a 9-0 lead after three innings of play.
Emily Smitherman would lead off the top of the fourth inning for Maplesville with a single, but two consecutive infield ground balls along with an inning-ending strikeout would send the game to the home half of the inning with Maplesville trailing by nine.
A one-out solo home run by Eddins would get the inning started for Jemison and would be followed by a pair of singles by Cleckley and Lowery. A single by Woodley would score two more for the Panthers and would aid in a four-run inning for Jemison that would make the score 13-0.
Jemison head coach Nathan Hayes would make a change in pitching to start the fifth and would call on senior Corbin to come in and finish things off for the Panthers. She certainly would not disappoint. After two straight strikeouts a ground ball back to Corbin would be relayed over to Evans at first base for the game’s final out due to the mercy rule. That would seal the game and give the title of Chilton County tournament champion to the Jemison Panthers.
“We had one plan,” said Hayes, “that was to win for Jess, and that’s what we did. Going to the hospital the other day, it was out of our hands what we could really do for her, and the only thing we could do was this. I think all of our minds have been with her and her family. It means everything to be able to get this for her and her family. I am proud of my girls for the way that they have persevered and been mature about this while taking care of business. There really wasn’t any other goal than getting this win for Jessica and getting these seniors a back-to-back tournament win. It’s been a tough week, but I am very proud of the girls.”
With emotions running high the Lady Panthers put one last exclamation point on the weekend and on the tournament as they came together to break it down one last time before leaving the field with a loud, “1,2,3, for Jess!”