VA softball continues playoff hot streak into regionals

By Griff Servati
For the Van Alstyne Leader
The Lady Panthers lifted another trophy in celebration after advancing into the Regional Semifinals.

You do not advance in the playoffs in softball without learning to win the close games. The Lady Panthers struggled with that early in the season, finding their way in the new classification and district. They were in the close games, but they were not winning them. That has drastically changed. 

The Lady Panthers found themselves in the Regional Quarterfinals against Venus. The Lady Bulldogs had just beaten out district teammate Celina in a one-game series to advance. This time it would be a best two out of three series with the Lady Panthers to determine the winner. 

Game one was a drama-filled contest that highlighted the importance of baserunning and the intestinal fortitude of its pitcher Kelsie Adams. Adams would get the team on the scoreboard in the first inning when she hit a double with Sydney Sullivan on the bases after getting walked. Sullivan would score on the play, and it would be the only score for either team on the evening. 

An errant throw broke the deadlock in the 3-1 win for the Lady Panthers as Tess Cutler made a break to homeplate.

The scoring was held in check after this due to solid pitching from both teams, especially from Adams. Twice in the game, she would face bases loaded and no outs, yet get out of the inning. This situation happened in the first and sixth innings. In the sixth inning, Venus was involved in a baserunning error called for base runner interference causing a double play. The Lady Panthers would escape with a 1-0 win. 

In the second game of the series, the Lady Panthers again took an early lead in their first at-bat. It would be Adams again at the plate, hitting a double that would score Pharr. Pharr was on the bases after she hit a single.  But unlike the first game, Venus would respond in their at-bat, scoring a run. 

The game would be deadlocked, waiting for a team to flinch in the pressure of the moment. The Bulldogs, who had three errors in the fourth inning allowing for the Lady Panthers to score two runs, would be the difference in the game. Tess Cutler would contact the ball, but an error in the throw to first would enable her to stay on the base. Tinsley Love, who had doubled before Cutler's at-bat, reached home plate on the play. A sacrifice fly ball by Sydney Sullivan would turn into a single on another error. Cutler would move into scoring position at third base on a steal, and on the play, yet another mistake and heady baserunning by Cutler would give the Lady Panthers a 3-1 lead. The score, combined with the errors, would doom the Bulldogs. With the lead, Adams would secure the win with her strong play in the pitcher's circle. 

Tinsley Love makes contact with ball to get a double and would later score in the deciding fourth inning for the Lady Panthers.

The Lady Panthers now move into the Regional Semifinals against Bullard. The games are scheduled for a Wednesday in Whitehouse, Thursday in Anna, and an if-necessary game on Saturday in Royce City. Any Panther fan wanting to attend the games needs to stay tuned to the VAISD website and Booster Club Facebook page for information regarding tickets and any game changes.