BYNG — When local rivals Latta and Byng met on the softball diamond on a festive Tuesday night at Bobby Johns Field, there was a little more than the rivalry on the thoughts of the Lady Panthers and the Lady Pirates. With their respective district tournaments happening Thursday, this was the last chance both teams had to iron out kinks, or refine aspects of their game.
For the Lady Panthers, the good news was not only did they do that, but they also got the win to enter postseason on a high note after posting a 10-1, five-inning, run-rule victory over the Lady Panthers.
The key inning was the fourth inning. Leading only by three runs at 4-1, the Lady Panthers (13-11), ranked seventh in Class 4A, were able to finally put some distance between them and the Lady Pirates (8-18). An RBI single by Kaitlin Hisaw, a three-run home run by Sara Miller (her second home run of the spring) and a two-run blast by Keeli Kessinger (her 14th homer of the season) produced six runs for a 10-1 lead after four innings. After Latta pitcher Siera Green (13-11) retired the Lady Pirates in the fifth inning, the game ended by the run rule.
“With the home run from the No. 2 hole (Miller) and then the No. 4 hole (Kessinger) hitting it out, that kind of got things snowballing for us,” Latta coach Jim Foster said. “Hitting is contagious. If one hits, then everyone hits. And that’s what kind of happened that inning. We kind of distanced ourselves, and that’s what you have to do in this game — and coast on in for a win, hopefully. And that’s what we did. Winning was a big way to enter the postseason, and plus it was Byng. We’re still rivals. We don’t like losing to them, and they don’t like losing to us. It’s friendly competition. It’s good to come over here and win any time.”
The Lady Panthers’ big inning was also kept alive by two costly Byng errors.
“Our (two) errors changed the momentum of the game,” Byng coach Randi Colbert said. “They played better defense than we did. If we catch a fly ball, it’s still 4-1.”
Latta jumped out to the early lead, and never lost it. An RBI double by Kessinger and a two-run single by Green to aid her own cause, gave the visitors from Swanson Field a 3-0 lead after an inning.
The Lady Panthers made it 4-0 in the second inning on an RBI double by Amy Hooser, which was answered by Byng in its half of the frame on Taylor Haley’s two-out, RBI single to cut the deficit to 4-1 after two innings. The game stayed that way until Latta’s six-run outburst in the fourth inning.
But both Foster and Colbert were more focused on what positives, or negatives, could be taken from Tuesday night’s game to get their respective squads ready for their district tournaments on Thursday.
“We wanted to take good level cuts (at the pitches),” said Foster, whose Lady Panthers will meet Savanna at 2 p.m. Thursday at Swanson Field before getting to meet Class 4A’s 12th-ranked Silo Lady Rebels before the day is over in the Class 4A District Tournament. “We didn’t want to chase bad pitches. We still chased a little bit, but we found the center of the ball two or three times there. We hit it hard all up and down the line-up. And that’s what we’re looking for.”
“I felt like our approaches at the plate were a lot better,” said Colbert, whose Lady Pirates will meet Seminole at 4 p.m. Thursday before games against Class 5A’s No. 3 Little Axe at the Class 5A District Tournament in Little Axe. “We were more focused, but our hits just didn’t fall. They’re excited. I’m excited and ready (for the district). I think we’ll be ready to go.”
For the game, Taylor McDonald was 3-for-3 with two runs scored, Miller and Kessinger was both 2-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored, Makenzi Lamb was 2-for-3 with a run scored and Devin Lyon was 2-for-3 for Latta.
In defeat, Haley was 2-for-2 with an RBI for Byng. Byng’s lone senior, Stasha Chronister, playing her last game at Bobby Johns Field, suffered the loss for the Lady Pirates.