Southside tops Etowah 8-2 to win Class 5A, Area 13 tournament

Southside’s Paiden Kircus, left, and Morgan Holloway collide while attempting to field a fly ball during Friday’s Class 5A, Area 13 tournament championship game. The Panthers won 8-2 to take the title. (Photo by Eric T. Wright | Gadsden Times)


SOUTHSIDE — Claire Graves led the Southside Panthers to the Class 5, Area 13 tournament title over Etowah 8-2 Friday.

Graves struggled a little with her inside pitches, but overall threw well to help lead the Panthers (38-6) to the area championship.

“I’m so thankful to have great teammates,” Graves said. “Even though I walk some batters and hit them, my teammates still pick me up and play defense behind me and we all hit the ball well.

“It’s always a team effort.”

Graves threw six innings and gave up four hits and one earned run. She hit three batters, walked one and struck out six. 

Brittany Williams pitched the last inning and struck out one.

With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the third, Southside gained the lead off a fielder’s choice from Paiden Kircus that scored Emilee Coker from third base to give the Panthers a one-run edge.

With Etowah’s Amber Jones on first with one out in the top of the fourth, Hunter Ashcraft made possibly the play of the game with a diving catch and throw to first to double-up Jones. Had the hit gone through, Jones could have scored and made it a completely different game.

“I can’t tell you how many ballgames Hunter Ashcraft has won for us,” Southside coach Angie Sanders said. “Defensively, she is one of the most solid kids I’ve had.”


Southside held the 3-2 lead until the bottom of the fifth inning when the Panthers scored five runs.

Sanders was glad to see her team distance themselves from the Blue Devils on the scoreboard.

“We left a few on (base) early, which caused a tight ball game,” she said. “We finally put back-to-back hits together.”

Savannah Elkins reached on an error on a throw to first by the Blue Devils’ Krislyn Farmer before the Southside offense heated up in the bottom of the fifth. Kircus singled to right field and drove Elkins to third. With runners on the corners, Savanna Yancey plated Elkins with a single for a 4-2 cushion. After both Kircus and Yancey advanced to second and third off a passed ball, Mallary Smith’s bunt single loaded the bases. 

Southside went ahead 5-2 when Molly Free reached on an error off a throw from Farmer and Kircus scored. Graves singled to center to drive home Yancey and make it 6-2. Smith and Free scored on two separate passed balls to post the final margin.

Graves had two hits and one RBI for Southside. Elkins, Kircus, Yancey, Smith and Free each had a hit, while Kircus, Yancey and Morgan Hollaway added one RBI apiece. Madison Grant threw six innings and gave up eight runs, four of which were earned, for Etowah. She walked one and fanned nine.

Emma Jones led the Blue Devils at the plate with two hits. Aimee Fancher and Amber Jones had one hit apiece. Both teams advanced to the North Regional Tournament in Huntsville next week.