The Portal Panthers hosted their first ever state playoff game and it was an electric atmosphere. The Panthers kept their fans cheering to the end as they won Game 1 9-2 and then had to come back from a 4-2 deficit before rallying for four runs in the top of the seventh and taking Game 2 6-4 advancing to the second round of the state Class-A playoffs.
Down 4-3 in the top of the seventh the Panthers rallied as Riley Lamb doubled to left plating Anslee Woods from third. Blair Brannen then gave the Panthers the lead with a 2-run double to the fence in left to make it 6-4. Lamb then shut the door in the bottom of the seventh with a pair of strikeouts including the game ending strikeout of Finleah Eubanks with a runner on second.
“We played well in the first game, and then didn’t do the things we did to get here for most of the second game,” said Portal coach Travis Motes. “We weren’t aggressive and got behind in the count and went after bad pitches. The good thing is the girls showed some heart battling back and doing things the right way in the last two innings.”
It looked as though the entire town of Portal came out to cheer the Panthers on and the home stands were full as well as most of the outfield. Baconton Charter had a few family members make the three-and-a-half-hour drive, and they were joined interestingly enough by the ECI softball team who finished their playoff game and hustled on over to Portal to pull loudly against the Panthers.
The Panthers opened up a 2-0 lead in Game 2 on a Jaycee Sanchez RBI single and a fielder’s choice. The Blazers left runners on base in the second, third and furth innings and finally came through in the fifth. With the bases loaded Jordan Hall ripped a three0run triple to the fence in left for a 3-2 lead. A Portal error allowed another run to score and just like that it was 4-2 Baconton Charter.
The momentum shifted in the sixth as with Kelsi Williams on first and two out Motes called for a bunt from Emma Yates. Yates laid a perfect bunt down the first base line, the throw sailed wide, and the relay throw went over the third baseman’s head allowing Williams to score and cut the lead to 4-3. After the game Motes felt like that play was the key to the comeback.
“That play right there turned things around for us,” said Motes. “I can’t say enough about Emma Yates it was an unselfish thing to do to put that bunt down and that’s all you can ask from her.”
In the opening game the Panthers jumped out to a 4-0 lead, the Blazers came back to cut the lead to 4-2 and Portal pulled away with two runs in the fifth and three runs in the sixth. Jozie Motes, Brannen and Sanchez all had two hits to help pace the Portal offense. Lamb pitched both games allowing only two hits and no earned runs in the opener with nine strikeouts. She then pitched seven innings allowing three earned runs with 13 strikeouts in the nitecap.
"Riley is our workhorse, and I knew she’d come through,” said Motes. “She pitched 14 innings and gave us everything she had. I am really proud of her.”
“It’s hard to let it sink in that we won our first ever state playoff series,” said Motes. “I am so thankful for the entire Portal community for coming out and supporting us. It really helped us when you hear the cheering throughout the game. It meant a lot for our student body to be out here as well we appreciate everyone for showing up.”
Portal will host No. 4 seed Crawford who upset No. 1 seeded Marion on Oct. 20.