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Purvis explodes for 17 runs in 4A playoff rubber match against Quitman

The Tornadoes spotted Quitman a 2-0 lead, then roared back to defeat Quitman 17-3

PURVIS – It was mission accomplished for Purvis, after hitting a bump in the road Saturday in the opening round of the high school softball playoffs.

The Tornadoes spotted Quitman a 2-0 lead, then roared back with authority, making the most of their many opportunities to defeat Quitman 17-3 in the third and deciding game of the Class 4A first round playoff series Tuesday night at the Purvis Softball Field.

Purvis (16-7) advanced to play Bay High on Friday in the first game of the best-of-three second round series. Quitman completed its season 13-9.

MORE: Updated MHSAA 4A Softball Playoffs Brackets

“I kind of gave the girls a challenge, and they really stepped up,” said veteran Purvis coach David Entrekin. “You could tell. We have four seniors that have a lot of experience and who have had great careers, and they weren’t ready to be done.”

After winning Game 1 at home on Friday, the Panthers turned the tables on the Tornadoes in the second game, winning 5-2 on Saturday.

“I was thinking, over the weekend, that we had to come and play hard to win this game,” said senior Elise Jackson. “They’re a very good team, but I think we came out and just wanted it a little more.”

Junior right-hander Hannah Lower was in some trouble in each of the first two innings against the Panthers. Jesse Miller hit the first pitch of the game into rightfield for a single, she was sacrificed to second and scored on a throwing error.

But Lower got strikeouts to end the first inning, then surrendered another run in the top of the second.

Again, the Panthers got the leadoff batter on with a single from Madison Dearman. Another successful sacrifice moved the runner over and Katie Strickland responded by slapping a single into left for a two-out RBI single and a 2-0 lead.

“I was (a little worried), because we played Saturday, and their pitcher (senior Lynnzie Kennedy) is a Gulf Coast Community College signee and threw really well Saturday,” said Entrekin, now in his 15th season as the coach of the Tornadoes.

“We had some trouble swinging the bat against her. But our kids showed a lot of leadership in practice yesterday and they made it happen.”

But as in the first inning, Purvis avoided further damage when Purvis senior catcher Lillie Hale threw out Strickland trying to steal second base for the final out of the inning.

“We made the routine plays tonight, which we haven’t always done,” said Jackson, who is headed for Jones College to play next season. “We had struggled with errors in some games earlier, but we were good tonight.”

Entrekin need not have worried. The Lady Tornadoes burst out in the bottom of the second with five runs on three hits and were helped by three walks.

The walks by Kennedy set the table for the Tornadoes, and the big bats in the top of the batting order came through.

Kennedy sandwiched two walks around a strikeout, then got a second out on a force at third. But Lily Reynolds, a seventh-grader, dropped a bloop single just inside the rightfield line for an RBI, and a walk to Jackson loaded the bases.

Lower came up with a chance to help herself and she didn’t pass it up, smashing a deep fly ball to right-centerfield for a bases-clearing triple.

“I was just looking, honestly, for a base hit,” said Lower. “I’ve learned to hit with two strikes, but early in the season, I didn’t have that confidence to hit a two-strike pitch.”

Three-hole hitter Andee Robertson followed by whacking a double to left for a 5-2 lead, and the Tornadoes never looked back. They added four more runs on four singles in the third and salted the game away with eight runs on five hits in the fourth.

“We’ve seen both of their pitchers, and I think that helped us a lot tonight,” said Robertson, a senior who plays second base.

“My second at-bat (after walking in the first), I knew I needed a hit, because I knew we needed more runs on the board, since they had already put up some runs. I figured she’d throw me an inside pitch and I was ready for it.”

Staked to a lead, Lower (12-2) was a different pitcher in the third, pitching around a leadoff infield single with a groundout and two popups in the infield, then got out of a bases-loaded jam after two were out with another groundout in the fourth.

She scattered eight hits, struck out three but only walked one.

“That’s what Hannah does,” said Entrekin. “Her No. 1 attribute, she’s a competitor, she’s tough as nails. She’s going to compete for you all the time and that’s what she did for us tonight.”

Hale and eighth-grader Aubrey Easley opened the third with a walk and a single. In short order, senior Alley Young had an RBI single, Easley scored on a groundout to third, Reynolds hit another run-scoring single and Lower drove in her fourth run of the game with a ground ball.

It was more of the same in the fourth off Quitman reliever Sydney Myrick. Sophomore Ava Williford led off with a single up the middle, went to second on a slow roller to the pitcher and scored on an RBI single by Easley.

A hit batter, a walk, another hit batter and another walk produced another run, then with two out, Robertson smoked a double just inside the leftfield line for two more runs.

Williford followed with a triple to the fence in right-center to score Robertson and Hale completed the carnage with a single to left.

“I was behind in the count (1-2),” said Robertson. “I struggle a lot when I get behind, so when I’m behind I have to know that anything close I need be ready to turn on it. It was just a matter of knowing I could do it.”

Kennedy led off the top of the fifth with a triple to right-center and scored a consolation run on the first of the consecutive groundouts to end the game.

“All season, we’ve been a comeback team,” said Lower. “We can be down the first couple of innings, then we’ll make a play to come back. It’s like we have to pick up our confidence.

“It’s exciting to be doing this with this group of girls. We’ve all grown up together, we work hard, and we’re close.”

Next comes a series with Bay High, which will face the question of whether having a week off for a bye adds up to rest or rust.

“I know Bay High has a good team,” said Entrekin. “I try not to look ahead too much, but I know they played in a very strong division. So for them to win that division, you know they’re going to be battle tested

“Hopefully, we can take the momentum from this game into Friday night, because we’re going to need all the momentum we can against a good team.”

No time has been set as yet for Friday’s series opener, Game 2 is scheduled for Purvis on Saturday, with the third and deciding game, if needed, on Monday.