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Jackets, Panthers continue quest in softball playoffs
Prep Softball
Southeast Bulloch's Delanie Thames gets a high five as she rounds third after hitting a home run in the fourth inning against Islands on Thursday, Sept. 24. The Jackets will take on White County in the second round of the GHSA Class-AAA state tournament beginning Wednesday. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT

The Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets and Portal Panthers have advanced to the state quarterfinals and will be looking to punch their ticket to the Elite-8 Wednesday afternoon. 

The Yellow Jackets go in after sweeping No. 4 seed Brantley County last week. The Jackets had to go to 10 innings with the Herons before finally coming out on top 2-1 on a walk-off wild pitch. Pitcher Alana Barnard continued her impressive work on the mound in the nitecap as the Jackets won a 9-1 run-ruled shortened game. 

“Alana did a great job at the plate and on the mound for us last week,” said SEB coach Aimee Civalier. “We had a little momentum after winning that first game and really played the way we know we can in the second game. We are looking to ride that momentum into this week’s game.” 

Wednesday the 17-4 Jackets will host the No. 3 seed in the 23-5 White County Indians. White County plays in region 7-AAA in which the top three teams all had over 20 wins this season.  

“We know they come out of a very strong region,” said Civalier. “ 

One of the keys to a victory Wednesday will be the Jackets ability to bring runners on base home. Southeast Bulloch had struggles with that in game one last week and Civalier knows the importance of getting a lead with Barnard on the mound. 

The Jackets and Indians are scheduled for a 4:00 first game Wednesday with game two coming at approximately 6:00. If a third and decisive game is necessary, it will be played Thursday at noon.

The 16-5 Portal Panthers were able to finish the season as region runners up and that meant they got to host their first ever state playoff game last week. The No. 2 seeded Panthers won the opener 9-2 but had to have some late game heroics to pull out game two as they came from four runs down to knock off No. 3 seeded Baconton Charter 6-4. 

“It was an exciting win for the girl’s as well as the Portal community,” said Portal coach Travis Motes. “We kind of got away from what helped us win the first game in the second game and I’m glad we were able to be aggressive at the plate late when we needed to and pulled out the victory.” 

One of the keys to the Panthers success this year has been solid defense as well as the pitching of Riley Lamb. Lamb came through in the opening playoff game with 21 strikeouts and allowed only three earned runs in 14 innings of work. 

“Riley is our workhorse, and we know we are going to need her again this week,” said Motes. “We know when she is out there, she is going to pound the strike zone and keep us in games. She has also been swinging the bat well this year and drove in the tying run in game two last week.” 

The only chance the Panthers had of hosting the second round was if the No. 4 seed was to knock off the No. seed in the other playoff game. Well good news for the Panthers fans who packed the stands last week is they will get the chance to do it again Wednesday as No. 4 seeded Crawford County who come in with a record of 13-7 after they swept No. 1 Marion County 6-2 and 15-0. 

“Crawford County has a strong pitcher with some good velocity,” said Motes. “This week we have worked a lot on bunting and trying to hit the outside pitch to right field. We are very excited to be able to host another round of the state and we know our community will come out to support us which means so much. I feel the team is peaking at the right time and we are ready to see what we can do.” 

The Panthers are having parade Wednesday starting at 1:15 that will start at Portal Elementary and go to the high school. Game one between Portal and Crawford County is set for 4 p.m. with game two to start around 6. If a third and decisive game is needed it will be played Thursday at 4 p.m.