It was a tough day on the softball diamond for Bulloch County teams. Portal dropped a pair of close contests and Statesboro lost all three of its games as the annual Battle in the Boro came to a close Saturday at Mill Creek Regional Park.
Fresh off of two wins on Friday night, Portal was hoping to contend for the tournament’s Wallace division championship.
Those plans hit a snag early on as New Hampstead touched up Lady Panthers’ ace Keri Carter and jumped out to a 5-0 advantage thanks to two-run singles by Cheyenne Crosby and Zaharea Lewis. Portal rallied hard, but fell short in a 5-4 defeat.
“We keep running into these problem innings,” Portal coach Valerie Kinard said. “We make a couple of little mistakes and get ourselves into trouble.”
Kenya Huff — who drove in 12 runs during the tournament — helped the Panthers’ comeback effort with a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth.
Portal nearly tied the game in the sixth, but brilliant defense by the Phoenix preserved the 5-4 margin. With a runner on second, Faith Oglesby drove a pitch deep to center, but Alaura DeRouen made a great over-the-shoulder grab to end the inning.
New Hampstead’s Chelsea Shearouse went the distance on the mound and sat the Panthers down in order in the seventh to close out the game.
Battling for an outside shot at the division title, Portal got into a slugfest with Wheeler County in its second game, but fell again – this time by a count of 12-8.
Wheeler County made solid contact off of Oglesby in the first inning and benefitted from two Portal errors to take a 3-0 lead.
Once again, it was Huff slugging the Panthers back into contention. Trailing 4-2 in the fourth, Portal’s lone senior slammed a bases loaded triple into the gap in right center to put her team up 5-4.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Wheeler County bounced back with three runs of their own in the fifth inning and never relinquished the lead.
Similar to their cross-county rivals, the Lady Blue Devils of Statesboro also got into a high-scoring affair with Wheeler County.
After losing its first three games of the tournament, Statesboro held a 7-4 lead in the fifth inning before the Wildcats exploded for 10 runs, then added one more in the fifth to make it a 15-7 victory.
Statesboro’s luck wasn’t any better earlier in the day as the Devils’ bats were hot, but couldn’t keep up with East Laurens in an 11-9 loss.
Facing New Hampstead — which swept its way to the Wallace division championship — Kalli Harsha struggled. Harsha hit a batter and walked five more, allowing eight runs to score in the first frame. Danielle Williams pitched effectively in relief, but the Phoenix claimed a 13-5 win in six innings.
“We would have liked to have won a game, but we still saw some good things,” SHS coach Jim Simmons said. “We had a few bad innings that hurt us, but we swung the bats well and showed that we’re improving.”
The other 12 teams in the tournament played round-robin pool games on Friday before being reseeded in three divisions Saturday morning. Screven County lost both of its Friday games, but rebounded to win its division with a victory over Dublin.
Ware County defeated Swainsboro in the middle division while Wayne County took on all comers, winning the top bracket and finishing as the only undefeated team in the field.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.