Petal fast-pitch coach Jonathan Robertson summed up his team’s m.o. with ease.
“We’re a bunch of fighters.”
On Monday night, Robertson’s Lady Panthers (13-12) pulled off what most viewed as an upset in Game 1 of their second round playoff series against Harrison Central (21-5), edging Red Rebelletes, 2-1. And on Tuesday after dropping a lopsided Game 2 on the road, the Lady Panthers had all of 20 minutes to put a 9-0 loss behind them and fight to keep their season alive in Game 3.
“You’ve got two options: You can either sulk or you can fight,” Robertson told his team.
The Lady Panthers chose the latter. After collecting no timely hits in Game 2, Leah Hernandez led off Game 3 with a triple for Petal, and one batter later, Hannah Brewer drove her in to give the Lady Panthers an early 1-0 lead. Petal pitcher Natalie Herrington followed with a 1-2-3 bottom of the first inning.
“That just gives you testament to the character and integrity of our kids,” Robertson said.
But despite the solid start, the Lady Panthers fell short of a trip to the third round of the Class 6A playoffs, dropping a 3-1 decision in the decisive Game 3. Offensively, they were set down in order in four of the final six innings. Hernandez reached with a one-out single in the third and an inning later Natalie Herrington with a two-out hit, but both were stranded.
Meanwhile, Harrison Central tied the game in the second with an RBI double off the bat of Courtney Crosby, and the Red Rebelletes pushed two more across in the fourth to earn the win.
“Our girls, we fought,” Robertson said. “I don’t think many folks thought we had a chance to whip those cats [in Game 1], but I know every one of those young ladies in our dugout thought we could whip them. We whipped them at our place, and we’re just a timely hit or two away from winning that ballgame (Game 3). They got more timely hits, like we did last night.”
Herrington started in the pitcher’s circle for both of Tuesday’s games, going four innings in Game 2 and the distance in Game 3. Robertson says Herrington “grew up a little bit” on Tuesday.
“She battled through some tough situations, and I couldn’t be more proud of her,” he said. “She had a great year and threw the ball well.”
Herrington is one of several freshmen who saw significant playing time this season for the Lady Panthers. Robertson called the season “a turning point” for the program.
“They battled, and we got better all through the year,” he said. “We went on a three or four-game skid there late in the district, which put us behind the eight ball a little bit. But, we rolled off six of seven before tonight.
“I’m just proud of these young ladies. This senior group, I could not say enough about them and what they’ve done to turn this program in the direction it’s going. The ones that are coming behind them have a chance to do some special things, so that’s an upside for Petal softball.”