Batesburg-Leesville handed Gilbert its first Region 3-2A softball loss on Wednesday night, downing the front-running Indians 6-1. With the win, the Panthers (7-5, 4-2) moved back into pennant contention with Gilbert (5-6, 5-1) and Saluda (5-2).
“Our region is very, very competitive, and we really needed this win,” said B-L coach Heyward Bouknight.
Gilbert topped the Panthers 2-0 in the first meeting on March 13 behind the three-hit pitching of Leigha Hite and the defensive wizardry of shortstop Victoria Burkett, who preserved the shutout by making two sensational over-the-head catches in shallow left field after the Panthers loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth inning.
“We put the ball in play 23 times in 26 at bats and got no runs,” mused Bouknight. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. Those two catches (by Burkett) were great plays, and made all the difference. It’s funny … I was thinking about that last night during the game when the same kind of thing happened in reverse.”
This time, it was Panthers shortstop Shauna Bashline who came up big with the glove. B-L had a 2-0 lead when Gilbert loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth inning. With two outs, Bashline made a running, over-the-head catch of a looper into shallow left to end the inning.
“If Shauna doesn’t make that catch, Gilbert ties the score at the very least,” said Bouknight. “It was a big, big play.”
Gilbert did cut the deficit to 2-1 in the fifth on an RBI single by Burkett, but the Panthers put the game away with a four-run rally in the top of the seventh inning. The move began with a towering, one-out home run to center field by Shamana Pickens, and ended with a bases-loaded, bases-clearing single by Bashline with two outs, scoring Lauren Kennedy, Victoria Gunter and Carson Covington.
Covington and Bashline singled and scored the first two runs of the game in the second inning. Covington came home on an error, and Bashline crossed on a RBI single by Blair Kirkland.
Gunter, the Panthers veteran ace in the circle, allowed only three hits and struck out 11.