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Big offensive output helps Panthers take two from Centre

Taylor Harkins (photo by Jimmy Mitchell)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—The Birmingham-Southern softball team excelled in just about every facet of the game in Saturday afternoon's doubleheader at BSC Softball Park against visiting Centre College. Behind a combined 17 runs, 16 hits, and nine walks, while yielding only one unearned run, BSC romped to a pair of Southern Athletic Association wins, 2-0 and 15-1.

BSC has now won eight of its last 10 games, all in conference, to improve to 8-2 in the SAA. The eight wins is currently tops in the conference. The Panthers are 11-9 on the season. Centre drops below .500 in SAA play with a 4-5 conference mark and is 5-10 overall.

In game one, the Panthers posted a run in each of the first two innings. In the home half of the first junior Bethany Fronk hit a one-out single and quickly advanced into scoring position on the play after a Centre throwing error. After a junior Taylor Bassett walk and subsequent passed ball during freshman Torrie Garner's at-bat that moved Fronk to third and Bassett to second, it was the freshman's single that brought home Fronk as the first run of the game for the Panthers.

BSC wasted no time in the second as the first two batters of the inning, freshmen Amanda Ballew and Taylor Brewer, reached safely with a single and walk respectively. The Panthers then manufactured their insurance run as freshman Alex Skene laid down a sac-bunt to move the runners one base and was followed by sophomore Maddie Ridgway and her RBI groundout to shortstop that scored Ballew.

The two runs would be more than enough for freshman Taylor Harkins (6-2) in the circle. Harkins took a perfect game into the top of the fifth when two singles in the inning provided the only blemishes on her spectacular afternoon. In the complete game victory, Harkins struck out four and issued no walks.

In game two, the Panthers found themselves in a unique situation after the Centre half of the first inning: trailing. Fronk (5-7) righted the ship after the lone, unearned run and held the Colonels to three more hits and one walk the rest of the game.

The rest of the game would provide only four more offensive opportunities for visiting Centre as the 1-0 lead they took into the BSC half of the second would not last long. Starting in the second, the Panthers found their offensive rhythm and proceeded to put on a clinic. Every BSC offensive starter either scored or recorded a hit. The offense was paced by Fronk's game-high four RBI and Ballew's three, Ridgway's game-high three hits, and a game-high three runs apiece for Ridgway and junior Alyssa Statham.

BSC sent 13 batters to the plate in a second inning that featured eight runs on two hits, four walks, and one Centre error. The first runs of the inning came courtesy of a Brewer single that plated Statham and Ballew. Three batters later a Ridgway double brought home Brewer and junior Joanna Jernigan. A walk to Statham, Ballew getting hit by a pitch, and an error after a ground ball from Fronk created the final four runs of the inning.

The bats remained hot in the third when the Panthers tacked on six more runs off six hits. The first three batters of the stanza safely reached to load the bases. A walk to Garner scored junior Hannah Harris and chased the Centre starter from the circle. The Centre reliever would not fare much better as a Statham single scored Ridgway, then a Ballew single brought home Garner and Bassett, and then a Fronk single that scored Ballew and Statham ended the inning's scoring in a frame that saw 11 Panthers bat.

The Panthers tallied a run in the fourth to reach the final score of 15-1.

Centre returns to the Hilltop to finish the series Sunday afternoon for a doubleheader starting at noon.