It’s said that timely defense and pitching win games.
The Northshore softball team got both Tuesday afternoon in a Class 5A bidistrict playoff against Shreveport-based Airline.
The 16 hits the Panthers banged out didn’t hurt, either.
Eight of nine starters had hits against Airline pitcher Kayla Ranit. Northshore junior pitcher Missy Clark went the distance, despite giving up 14 hits, and the Panthers had a trio of excellent defensive plays behind her. That was enough for homestanding Northshore to defeat Airline, 10-9, and advance to the regional round, where they will play the Denham Springs-Captain Shreve winner.
Clark shrugged off a four-run first inning by Airline and relied on her teammates for stalwart defense.
Center fielder Taylor Estain had a spectacular, over-the-shoulder grab which started a double play to end the top of the third inning. Then in the sixth, second baseman Hailey Kirkpatrick stopped a hard-hit grounder behind second base to catch an Airline runner at second base with two runners aboard.
The biggest play may have come in the seventh, however, when shortstop Sydney Bourg helped record the first out of the inning. Airline’s three-hole batter Katie Smith, who already had two hits, drilled a liner up the middle, but Bourg dove to her left and threw to first base from her knees to get the out.
“The beginning was kind of tough for me, but I had confidence in myself, and I had confidence in my team,” Clark said. “I knew they would make the plays behind me.”
Northshore (20-6) rallied from the four-run deficit in the first by scoring three runs in its half of the inning. The Panthers scored another three runs in the fourth and seized the lead for good with four runs in the fifth.
Kat Cognevich, Estain and Virginia Foy singled to open the fifth, and Clark reached on a fielder’s choice and error. Bourg drove home a run on a single, and Sabrina Buelle singled to score another runner. The offensive flurry gave the Panthers a 10-8 lead.
But Airline (15-12) did not go quietly. Mary Macaulay and Cheyanne Hutchins reached on infield singles in the sixth, but that set up Kirkpatrick’s defensive gem, even though a run scored on the play to make the score 10-9.
Clark faced four batters in the seventh to finish the game.
Bourg, an LSU commitment who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, said the Panthers didn’t fret, even when down by four runs heading into their half of the first inning.
“We’ve been down before,” she said. “We knew they were hittable. We just had to come out (after being down by four runs), and do that much more. Everyone in the dugout was picking one another up. That helped us.”
Northshore coach Marian Eades said she was pleased with her team’s resiliency and its ability to rise to the occasion when needed.
“It was about not giving up, being down by four, and a couple times after that,” Eades said. “Our goal every inning is to (score.) To come back and mark three in the first, that gave us the push to say ‘Hey, we can hit this girl too.’ They just didn’t quit.”
In addition to Bourg, Cognevich and Estain also had three hits for Northshore. Buelle and Kirkpatrick had two hits each.
Carly McIntosh and Cheyanne Hutchins each had three hits to lead Airline.