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Pair of no-hitters propel Lady Raiders to round 2 of state playoffs

By MICHAEL MURRAY

AMERICUS – To most people, the word “Raider” conjures up images of Vikings and buccaneers, clad in dark garb, who make a habit of plundering and stealing from surrounding villages to enjoy the spoils of victory. On Oct. 6, the Southland Academy Lady Raiders certainly embraced the “stealing” aspect that their team’s name implies… stealing the spotlight, that is.
Having logged only one region loss during the regular season, the Lady Raiders stepped onto their home field that afternoon to defend the team’s impressive record against the visiting Griffin Christian Academy Crusaders. Southland’s girls quickly showed the visiting foes why they had earned the home field advantage in the match, gaining two major victories in the first round of the GISA AAA state playoffs. The Lady Raiders rode pitcher Megan Burke’s precise throwing and the spot-on skills of the team’s batters to a pair of no-hit wins, shutting out Griffin Christian twice in the double-header.
The first match ended with the home team taking a 19-0 win, while the Crusaders’ chance at a comeback in the second test of the afternoon saw Southland’s girls take a 16-0 victory.
The Lady Raiders return to the diamond in Americus on Oct. 10 at 12:00 p.m., facing the Trinity Christian Lady Crusaders in the second round of the state playoffs. Trinity earned their spot in the quarterfinals after defeating the Westfield Lady Hornets on Tuesday. The Lady Raiders’ competition will be heating up in the second round as Trinity enters the contest with a 16-5-1 overall record, and will certainly be lprotecting that record with all that they have.
The Lady Raiders came out swinging in the first contest of the afternoon of Oct. 6, gaining a quick 11-point lead in the first inning on four hits. Southland’s girls made short work of the Crusaders’ batters in the bottom of the frame to return to the batter’s box.
Back at the plate, Burke and Cassi Bass each coaxed walks out of Griffin’s pitcher before hits Kendall Kirkland and Hannah Philpot logged the innig’s first hits. Brandi Sellars then drew a walk, loading the bases, as did Olivia Payne, who pushed Kirkland across the plate.
Philpot came home on a wild pitch as Sellars stole third with Christina Davis at the plate. A walk for Davis loaded the bases before Abby Dent stepped up and nailed a single, bringing in Sellars.
After another hard single to centerfield by Mary Martin Sheely, Payne and Davis saw their chance to come home. With Bass back at the plate, Dent and Sheely took off for second and third bases, respectively, before another walk loaded the bases. Kirkland and Philpot drew two more walks before the inning ended, pushing in two runners to expand their lead to 19 points before the Lady Raiders returned to the outfield.
Burke deftly struck out the next three batters to draw the curtain on the first half of the series.
Southland’s batters connected seven times in the contest, while Burke’s talented pitching arm didn’t give up a single hit. Burke added five strikeouts to her already impressive season total during the match.
Davis led the team at the plate, contributing two hits and bringing in two RBIs. Dent and Payne each brought in two RBIs on their sole connections with the ball.
After a short break, the two teams returned to the field and the Lady Raiders continued the onslaught.
After drawing a walk, Sellars stole her way to third base before capping the momentum with another run, taking off for home on a wild pitch.
Davis followed with a single and Dent was plunked by the next pitch, sending her to first. Another errant pitch, with Brittney Tyler at the plate, allowed Davis and Dent to progress to second and third before Tyler jacked a shot deep into right field, bringing the two runners in for a 3-0 lead.
When Southland’s girls took the outfield, Burke threw to three batters who were quickly dispatched, returning Southland’s girls to the dugout post-haste.
Kara Hubbard opened the top of the second, taking one for the team when she was beaned by a stray pitch. She then advanced to third on an expertly placed bunt by Sellars. Another bunt by Savanna Swann sent Hubbard sliding home as Davis picked up her bat. Sellars came in yet again while Swann snagged two more bases in the commotion.
Davis highlighted the second inning with an inside-the-park homer that bounced to the centerfield fences, bringing in Swann and giving her time to round the bases, expanding the girls’ lead to 6-0.
Dent, one of the Lady Raiders’ consistent sluggers, found herself hit by another pitch for the second time in the game to gain a free base. Tyler then stepped up and showed off her batting chops, nailing a bouncy grounder that hugged the first base line all the way to the fence, resulting in the game’s first triple and widening the gap to 8-0 before the Lady Raiders surrendered the plate.
It was another short stint in the field for the Lady Raiders as they went three up, three down and quickly came back into the dugout.
Southland’s girls added three more in the top of the third, with Hubbard, Sellars, Swann, and Dent each contributing hits. Hubbard, Sellars, Swann each crossed home plate in the frame, sending yet more points to the board.
The Lady Crusaders saw their most exciting defensive performance of the match as they ended this rally by snagging a Tyler-hit drive out of thin air and launched the ball to first before Dent could tag up. The play showed a lot of promise from a team that was obviously having a tough day on the diamond.
When they returned to bat, the Lady Raiders added four more runs as they continued drawing walks and gaining ground. Highlighting the frame, Sellars followed a wild pitch home once again, marking the fourth time she accomplished this through the series. Dent batted in Kirkland for he team’s 16th run, putting the game out of reach for the Lady Crusaders.
Burke struck out seven batters during the match. Once again, her expert pitching arm gave up no hits for the opposing team.
Davis and Sellars each gained two hits in the match, with Davis contributing two RBIs. Tyler paced the team from the batter’s box, bringing in three runners. Hubbard brought in one RBI, as did Dent.
Lady Raider head coach, John Brady, spoke with the Times-Recorder after the match, saying, “It was great for us to get through the first round again… We did what we needed to do. We got what we needed early. I was glad to see us come out and jump on them early so we could take care of business. Now, our focus turns to Trinity. It will be a tough test for us. They have a good team and it will be a big challenge for us, but we’ll be ready.”

Michael Murray/Americus Times-Recorder: Mary Martin Sheely attempts to beat the ball to third base in the Lady Raiders’ first match of the afternoon on Oct. 7.

Michael Murray/Americus Times-Recorder:
Mary Martin Sheely attempts to beat the ball to third base in the Lady Raiders’ first match of the afternoon on Oct. 7.