PORTAL — In last week’s season opener, Portal let a three-run lead get away in the bottom of the seventh inning against Statesboro.
Leading their cross-county rivals by a single run on Tuesday evening, the Lady Panthers were up to the challenge.
Third baseman Kenya Huff stopped a pair of hot shots for the first two outs of the final frame and Keri Carter closed out a seesaw 15-14 victory.
“It’s definitely good to get that first win, especially after letting the one last week get away,” Portal coach Valerie Kinard said. “I was proud of the way we hung tough. We stayed in the game when we got behind and then finished it off when we had the chance.”
Just one half inning into the contest, a Portal win seemed all but out of the question.
The first four Statesboro (1-1) batters of the game reached base to take a 1-0 lead and a bases loaded walk dealt by Portal (1-1) starter Faith Oglesby made it 2-0. Hailey Colson ripped a two-run single and Alexis Costlow popped a two-run single onto the foul line in right field for a 6-0 advantage. Two more walks and another single made it 8-0 after Statesboro’s first trip to the plate.
“It seems like we always have that one bad inning,” Kinard said. “Nothing really went right for us. But we hung in there and kept fighting. That made the difference.”
Leading 8-1 in the bottom of the third, the Blue Devils’ defense ran into trouble of its own.
SHS starter Kristen Kingery retired the first Panther of the frame before the next 11 reached base safely. Even more frustrating for the Devils, the majority of the damage was done without the ball leaving the infield.
With the bases full of Panthers, three consecutive ground balls managed to find the Devils’ infielders without an out being recorded. A fourth ground ball was thrown away by Costlow, pulling Portal within 8-6.
Caitlyn Girardeau then blasted a shot to right field to knock in a pair and came home to make it 9-8 when the throw to third base got away.
“We just had a really rough time of it,” SHS coach Jim Simmons said. “We couldn’t put a whole play together. We either couldn’t field it cleanly, didn’t cover a base, or didn’t come up throwing. Any of those could have been outs for us.”
Carter – who had relieved Oglesby in the second inning – was the difference maker on Tuesday. Statesboro continued to battle, but Carter was able to stay one step ahead and get the final three outs that had eluded her team in the opener.
Statesboro will try to get back on track as the Devils host Claxton in a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday at Mill Creek Regional Park. Portal’s next action comes Friday at the Tattnall County tournament and begins a stretch that will see the Panthers play 14 games in eight days.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.