Second-round bound

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 12, 2006

After two straight days of gloomy skies and rain delays, the weather finally cleared for the Demopolis and Jemison softball teams to finish their 4A Sub-State playoff series.

With bright skies and a cool, stiff breeze blowing in from leftfield, the Tigers and Panthers picked up where Tuesday’s lighting stopped them, with Demopolis up 1-0 in the second inning of game two. Jemison had already won a rain-delayed game one 4-0.

Demopolis outscored Jemison 7-1 in Thursday’s games, ending Jemison’s season with 5-0 and 3-1 victories. Demopolis advances to Sub-State round two, where they’ll host the Beauregard Hornets at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Demopolis Sports-Plex.

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Tiger head coach Joey Browder said his team didn’t necessarily “play flawless, but they made the plays that counted, and hit the ball when it counted.

“They came out with the mind made up that they were going to win,” he said after the victory.

Catcher India Chancellor, one of four seniors who were members of the Lady Tigers’ 2003 state championship team, said their focus was to stay alive and keep winning.

“We don’t ever want it to stop, especially us seniors,” she said.

Dorothy Knapp’s first-inning solo homer Tuesday remained the difference in game two of the playoff series until the fourth inning Thursday. But then the Demopolis offense woke up, using a mix of contact hitting and small-ball strategy to build a 5-0 lead they’d never relinquish.

Demopolis pitcher Sara Davis went all the way, striking out four, walking one, and allowing only four Panther hits.

Her opponent, Ashley Howard, struck out three and walked one, allowing eight hits and four of the Tigers’ five runs.

In the fourth inning, shortstop Jazmine Simmons sped up the line to run out an infield single. Molly Barnes’ sacrifice bunt moved her into scoring position. Then Morgan Patterson cracked a double that put two runners in scoring position with just one out.

Howard misplayed Stewart Gross’ grounder to the mound, dropping the ball while swatting at Gross for the out. Simmons charged for the plate, but Howard recovered and threw home, catching the Demopolis shortstop in a rundown.

But Simmons, one of the Tigers’ fastest runners, evaded tag after tag, edging ever-closer to the plate, before sliding into home under the pitcher’s tag.

Jemison’s best scoring chance in game two came in the bottom of the fifth, when Alexis Gothard led off with a stand-up triple that hooked fair down the rightfield line. After a popup out, Jessica Freeman took two quick strikes before ripping a line drive over the pitcher’s head. Knapp, the Tigers’ second baseman, climbed the ladder to make the catch, then fired a bullet to third baseman Hunter Lewis to double off Gothard.

Neither team ever got hot at the plate in game three. The score was knotted at one until Demopolis came up to bat in the bottom of the sixth. Pitcher Brandi McGee and Knapp hung two quick outs on the Lady Tigers with pop flies. But catcher India Chancellor knocked a single; Raven Simmons replaced her as a courtesy runner. Lewis then rapped a double into the gap in left center, and Simmons sped around the bags from first all the way home. She slid in under the catcher’s tag at the plate to break the tie.

A passed ball put Lewis on third base. Then, when she strayed from the bag, Jemison’s catcher fired up the line to pick Lewis off. Lewis narrowly dodged the pick-off throw, and her body blocked the third baseman’s view enough that she dropped the ball, letting Lewis scamper home for the game’s final run.