Butler shines, Springwood softball takes decisive Game 3 over Northside 10-6

Published 9:54 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2019

LANETT — The Springwood softball team came back from a 6-0 deficit to defeat Northside Methodist 10-6 to advance in the playoffs.

The key to the comeback wasn’t strictly the play on the field, however, it was maintaining the fun atmosphere that got the Wildcats to a Game Three in the first place.

“I took my foot off the pedal a bit and tried not to get too aggressive with them,” Springwood head softball coach Galen Smith said. “I tried to let them keep it light and upbeat in the dugout. I really think that’s the way these girls play. They like a lot of noise and enthusiasm, if you start hammering down on them, then they’ll shut down.”

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Springwood trailed by six runs at the top of the second inning before Smith decided to take junior starting pitcher MaKayla Barber off the mound in favor of junior Miranda Butler, who pitched a complete game in Game Two on Monday night.

Barber was moved to her everyday position of shortstop, a role that she admitted to being more comfortable in after Tuesday night’s win. Barber said that she had a bigger picture in her mind after her rough start on the mound for the last 5.2 innings of the game.

“I focused more on the team instead of just myself,” Barber said. “I was trying to get a win for them. We’re all working together.”

The momentum began to shift with the pitching change, as the Butler and the Wildcats gave up zero runs for the remainder of the game.

“We all have really good chemistry with Miranda pitching because we all have strong defense in that infield. We all have our handshakes, and we all have high spirits,” Barber, whose favorite handshake is with junior second baseman Emma Jennings, said. “ I knew it was going to be good.”

Butler, whose favorite handshake is with senior first baseman Maddie Johnson, has been involved in comeback elimination-game victories before as a member of 2018 16 and Under West Point All-Star Softball Little League team. The team made headlines last summer after winning the senior league state championship.

“It taught me how to be patient with the game,” Butler said. “It taught me how to fight back because when we were up there, we were down in a game by 9-0 and came back to win 11-9. It showed me how to be patient with the game, anything can happen in short innings and I should never give up. I pitched two games, and in the last game I was starting to give up and not do my best, but after that, I slowly gained and got better.”

On Tuesday night, Butler breezed by Northside’s lineup in the third and fourth innings when Springwood finally experienced its offensive breakthrough by scoring four runs to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth.

The momentum carried into the next inning for the Wildcats after senior Allie Davis got on base due to a fielding error by Northside. Barber then stepped up to the plate and got the go-ahead RBI triple to drop in left field to give Springwood its first lead of the game.

“At the beginning of the season, I had trouble hitting,” Barber said. “Mostly because I got in my head, but I’m starting to see the ball better and I’m glad that I can help my team out by hitting.”

The first insurance run came from a sacrifice fly ball from Johnson to right field that scored Barber. Jennings knocked in the final two runs of the night with a two-RBI single that landed in center field to push Springwood’s lead to 10-6.

Jennings caught two pop-ups for the first two outs of the seventh inning before Butler struck out the final Northside batter.

Smith greeted Butler with a hug and Barber with the new “woah” dance phenomenon, as the energetic Wildcats now travel Montgomery on Thursday to determine the seeding in next weekend’s AISA State Tournament. Thursday’s first game will be against Macon East at 2 p.m. EDT. at Lagoon Park, the same site as the state playoffs.

“I tell the girls every year that’s our goal,” Smith said. “We want to be at Lagoon Park for state playoffs every year.”