Softball: Back on track – Lady Panthers clinch playoff berth, knock off Boyd and Bowie

By Reece Waddell | Published Saturday, April 28, 2018
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Going Yard

GOING YARD – Paradise’ Maddie Terry is greeted by her teammates at home plate after hitting a two-run home run during the Lady Panthers’ 5-0 win over Boyd Monday. The Lady Panthers followed the victory with a win over Bowie to take third in 8-3A. Messenger photo by Mack Thweatt

Nearly one month ago, the Paradise Lady Panthers were 6-1 in District 8-3A. The Lady Panthers then lost six of their last eight games and found themselves in a three-way tie with Boyd and Bowie for the final two playoffs spots out of 8-3A.

Monday at Henrietta, the Lady Panthers got back on track with a pair of victories to secure the third seed out of 8-3A.

Paradise knocked off the Lady Jackets 5-0 in the first game of the tiebreaker doubleheader. Boyd eliminated the Lady Panthers from playoff contention last year.

“We don’t ever talk about it or think about it,” said Paradise coach Karin Essig. “The drive for them was what’s happened this year. Going 6-1 to start [district] and dropping four one-run games – they had so much ammunition from this year we didn’t need much from last year.

“Our kids were aggressive today. They really wanted this and showed they were ready.”

Junior Kendall Candioto threw a complete-game shutout for the Lady Panthers. She struck out 13 and scattered four hits over seven innings.

Candioto pitched around several jams in the third and fourth innings.

With two on and two out in the third, Candioto got a strikeout to end the threat. In the fourth, Boyd put runners at the corners, but Candioto pulled the string on an off-speed pitch to strike out Kristen Whatley, retiring the side.

“We just couldn’t get anything going offensively,” said Boyd coach Brandon Hopkins. “We had way too many strikeouts. [Candioto] was getting us chasing her rise ball. When we did put the ball in play, we usually had success. We just didn’t put it in play much. She spun it well.”

Up 2-0 in the top of the fifth, Maddie Terry doubled Paradise’s advantage with a two-run home run. Boyd starter Kristin Rasbury hung a drop-curve up in the zone that Terry barely muscled over the left field fence. The ball bounced off the top of the wall and over, sending the Lady Panthers into a frenzy.

“I just watched the pitcher’s hip, and off the bat I knew it was gone,” Terry said. “I was watching it as I was running to first, making sure it got over. Honestly, I was trying not to cry. I was so happy. Coming around third and seeing your team is the best feeling in the world.”

Paradise added another run in the inning on an RBI-single by Kaycee Martin. The Lady Panthers loaded the bases in the seventh with one out, but Rasbury pitched around the danger. She induced two ground balls to end the inning.

Candioto made quick work of the Lady Jackets in the bottom of the seventh, striking out the final batter to end the game.

Paradise went on to beat Bowie 9-5 in the second game of the tiebreaker doubleheader.

Candioto started that game as well, giving up two runs on two hits in four and one-thirds innings. Kailey Thomas entered in relief, surrendering three runs on three hits over the final two and two-thirds innings.

“The wins feel really good after our slump,” Candioto said. “But stuff happens. I think we have really fought our way back.”

Paradise will face the second-place team from District 7-3A, Eastland, in the bi-district round of the playoffs. Game 1 was Friday in Graham.

Game 2 is at 3 p.m. Saturday. Game 3, if necessary, would immediately follow Game 2 at 5 p.m. Saturday.

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