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McKenzie rallies in rivalry with Georgiana

McKenzie pitcher Kaitlyn Padgett helped lead the Lady Tigers to a 14-4 victory over the Georgiana Panthers from the mound.

McKenzie pitcher Kaitlyn Padgett helped lead the Lady Tigers to a 14-4 victory over the Georgiana Panthers from the pitcher’s circle.

The Georgiana Lady Panthers softball team is off to its best start in recent memory with a 3-1 record.

Unfortunately, a talented McKenzie Lady Tigers team handed the Lady Panthers their first defeat convincingly thanks to a miraculous run in the final two innings of play.

The Lady Panthers led the majority of the contest 3-0, but a four-run inning gave the Lady Tigers the lead—and more importantly, a permanent shift in momentum—in the fifth inning.

Though the Lady Panthers would tie the game at 4 runs apiece in the bottom of the fifth, the Lady Tigers followed with an explosive 10-inning stretch and sealed the deal for good.

“My pitcher got tired, and they did a good job of hitting the ball and doing the necessary things in running bases,” said Georgiana head softball coach Ezell Powell.

“We did a few things poorly, and allowed them to break the ballgame open and win it.”

Powell cited the Lady Panthers’ comparatively small pitching staff as a focal point for growth in the past three years, though Thursday night’s matchup with Hillcrest-Evergreen—in which the Lady Panthers prevailed 12-11—provided early evidence that the hard work is paying off.

Down seven runs early, Powell substituted his junior varsity pitcher, Makayla Coxwell, to the mound, and the Lady Panthers’ fortune shifted dramatically.

“(Starting pitcher Courtney Powell) came out in the beginning, she was still feeling the effects from Tuesday’s ballgame, so we gave up probably about seven runs early,” Powell said.   “And then MaKayla Coxwell came in and pitched the next five innings, and we were able to mount a comeback.”

Contributions from Coxwell and other younger members of the Lady Panthers softball team has been a work in progress for several years.

“That’s something that we’ve been building on here for a while—to get pitchers to the point that they can go out and compete and give us a chance to win the ball game,” Powell said.

“This is our third year doing it, and we’re turning the corner now.  We’re starting to see the fruits of our labor that we’ve put in over the past few years to sort of build our softball program.”

After three years under the tutelage of Powell, the Lady Panthers remain a young team.  The team sports three seniors and nearly the same amount of juniors, while the large majority of the team is composed of freshmen and sophomores, many of whom were just seventh graders when Powell arrived.

“That’s one of the things I told them in the beginning,” Powell said.

“They just have to weather the storm and not give up or quit.  But we always find positives in what we’re doing, and now they’re a lot more confident when they go out to play.”

The Lady Panthers will find their next test in the Greenville Lady Tigers Monday afternoon in Greenville.