FACED with region tournament elimination and having a 20-plus win softball season end prematurely, Jackson County survived Tuesday thanks to its most impressive offensive performance of the postseason.
The Panthers (25-7) walloped East Hall 11-3 in six innings to advance in the 8-AA tournament after being shutout 5-0 earlier Tuesday against no. 6 Union County, which had relegated the Panthers to the losers’ bracket.
Coach Chessie Laird said that served as motivation.
“Just getting our loss earlier, there were some things that we were not proud of,” Laird said. “We had 16 strikeouts in that game (against Union County). We had six or seven errors in that game. And that was just not us. So, our whole main focus was to go in and be focused and have a plan for every single thing. They really rallied behind each other.”
Jackson County moves on to face the loser of Fannin County and Union County Thursday in Fannin County. The Panthers must win two more games in the losers’ bracket to qualify for state.
“We have to win from here on out — no room for error … but the girls believe in themselves and believe in each other, so I think we’ll be able to carry it out and be successful,” Laird said.
Down 2-0 after the top of the first Tuesday against East Hall, Jackson County responded with eight unanswered runs over the course of the first four innings to take a commanding lead. The Panthers then tacked on three more scores in the sixth inning to end the game early.
Ironically, Jackson County had beat East Hall Monday in extra-innings in walk-off fashion with a game-winning hit from Peyton Sorrells.
Tuesday’s win was a much different kind of walk-off victory. When Kortnee Satterfield ripped a three-run double in Tuesday’s win to clear the bases, it brought the mercy rule into effect.
“She did a great job of bringing them in … I was glad that it was her who did that,” Laird said.
Haley Shinall pitched six innings for the victory. Offensively, Jessica Baker, Kelsey Turner, Mason Garland, Shinall and Satterfield all drove home scores in the rout.
Laird said playing immediately after the 5-0 loss to Union County helped the team move on.
“We couldn’t sit there and dwell on what had just happened because I felt if we did that, it would be harder to pick back up,” Laird said.
There was much more drama in Jackson County’s Monday game with East Hall.
Tied 2-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Sorrells — a freshman making one of her first varsity plate appearances of the season — drove home Ashleigh Lance to give Jackson County a 3-2 win.
“Peyton did an amazing job,” Laird said. “We pulled her and Cassie Satterfield both up from JV just because of their performance on the JV and we just wanted to get them some experience and exposure to the high school atmosphere.”
And there was no greater experience than this when Laird called upon Sorrells to pinch-hit in the ninth inning for Macey Latty.
“Macey has been doing a great job for us slapping and bunting,” Laird said. “The only thing was, we didn’t want to bring the infield in, so we needed someone who could kind of put it out there for us and she did a great job.”
Madison Whitmire had tied the game at two in the eighth inning when she tripled to right field to score Alyssa Dasher. Whitmire, however, was thrown out trying to take home.
Following a strong start from Shinall, Satterfield threw the final 1 1/3 innings to earn the win.