Graves, No. 2 Southside beat Etowah, clinch area title

Southside's Lindsey Beal tags out Etowah's Paden Allen during high school softball at Southside on Wednesday. (Photo by Marc Golden | Gadsden Times)

After such a dominant performance, Southside’s Claire Graves was modest, almost bashful.

The pitcher tossed a complete game two-hitter while also hitting an RBI single in leading the Class 5A, No. 2 Panthers past Etowah 4-0 in Area 13 action Wednesday. The win secured the area championship and the series sweep of the Blue Devils for Southside, and Graves played a large role in it.

You wouldn’t know it by talking to her, however.

“It’s always a team effort,” Graves said.

Southside coach Angie Sanders made up for her pitcher’s reticence by stressing Graves’ importance to the team’s success.

“Claire did a tremendous job,” she said. “She is pitching really well right now. She is swinging the bat really well, too.”

Graves had a home run in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Blue Devils. The blast tied the game at 2 and helped spark the comeback in the top of the seventh inning.

Graves fanned seven batters in leading her squad to the area title and in getting the win in circle Wednesday.

“I’m really excited about it (the area championship),” Graves said. “We’ve had a really good season. We’ve been hitting the ball better this year.”

A pair of bloop singles by Etowah’s Paden Allen, were the only hits Graves allowed in the game.

The Panthers (23-9-1, 6-0) got on the board first in the second inning.

Peyton Williams and Paiden Kircus led off with back-to-back singles. Brittany Williams lined a double down the third-base line to score two runs and give Southside all the runs it would need.

Etowah (12-14, 3-2) remained hitless until Allen dropped the ball into left field in the top of the fifth. A sacrifice bunt by Cailee Chaffin and a groundout by Alyssa Howard moved Allen to third base with two outs, and Graves walked Aimee Fancher to put two runners on base. Nicki Rodgers followed with a bunt, and Southside catcher Lindsey Beal picked the ball up and tagged a sliding Allen to end the inning and the Blue Devils’ best scoring chance of the game.

In the bottom of the frame, Savannah Thomas doubled to plate Morgan Holloway and extend Southside’s lead to 3-0. Graves followed with a single that capped the day’s scoring.

Allen picked up her team’s second hit in the top of the seventh inning with one out, but Graves retired the last two Etowah batters.

“It’s very nice,” Sanders said. “It’s always good to have the home-field advantage. We’ve worked really hard on our field and got some things finished. The girls work on the field. I’m not sure how many hits we had today, but it was more than yesterday. We hit the ball much better today.”

Etowah’s Madison Grant took the loss. She went six innings, allowing seven hits and three walks while striking out two.