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Late rally halts PHS
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    PORTAL — The Portal Lady Panthers (1-1, 1-1 Region 3-A) were three outs away from knocking off region foe Calvary Day, but the Lady Cavaliers rallied in the top of the seventh to knock off PHS 11-6 Tuesday night.
    The Cavs (4-1, 2-0) trailed 6-4 heading into the top of the seventh and exploded for seven runs off Panther pitchers Kaylie Howell and Katherine Mincey that sealed the victory for the visitors.
    Calvary pitcher junior Brittany Tuten (CG, 4K, 3BB) helped herself out at the plate going 4-for-5 with a double and 3 RBIs. Each CDS batter reached base at least twice, and they all got on base in the seven-run seventh.
    “(I told them) to keep their heads up and dig deep,” said Cavalier coach Sherry Griffin about the last inning rally. “Get back to the basics.”
    After falling into a 3-0 hole, Portal responded in the bottom of the fourth and took control of the game.
    Pinch hitting with two outs and the bases loaded, Mary Ashley Henley walked in a run. Shortstop Nikki Sims followed that when she pounded a two-run single up the middle. The Panthers took the lead when Henley scored from third on a wild pitch.
    Calvary tied the game in the next inning, but PHS retook the lead on a suicide-squeeze, RBI bunt by Jessie Mixon that scored Howell from third.
    Howell added to the lead in the sixth inning on the strength of an RBI single.
    After that, things fell apart for the Panthers.
    “I think it was the errors,” said Portal coach Shannon Davis. “Our bats looked a lot better. We just made some critical errors when we shouldn’t have. That’s about all it boils down to.”
    Several bases-loaded, seventh-inning Panther errors contributed to the late Calvary rally and seemed to take the life out of the lady Panthers. Batting in the bottom of the seventh, Tuten struck out one and forced two come-backers to the mound to seal the victory for the Cavs.
     “(Tuten) did a great job,” Griffin said. “She worked hard. She struggled a little bit here and there, but she just continued to work hard and hit her spots. She did well.”
    The much improved Panthers — a team coming off of a two-win season a year ago — have managed to get the competitive spirit back in Portal so far this season. The improved play on both sides of the ball has Griffin concerned with the level of competition in Region 3-A in 2007.
    “I think (the region) is going to be pretty even keel throughout the entire season,” said the CDS coach. “Portal surprised us. They had a good ball club. Defensively and offensively, they stepped it up from last year.”
    The Panthers return to action on Thursday when they resume region play on Thursday and  travel to Emanuel County Institute for a 4:30 p.m. region contest.

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.