Prattville Christian’s tight-rope act worked as long as it could.
The Panthers were backed into a corner several times at Lagoon Park during Thursday’s elimination game with Goshen in the AHSAA Class 2A state softball tournament.
And nearly every time, PCA somehow found a way to avoid the game-changing inning.
There was Morgan Burbage’s heads-up play in the second, Justice Moore’s relay throw from right field to complete a double-play an inning later and the quick thinking of catcher Nicole Noots during the fifth.
But Prattville Christian’s ability to escape damage would only last so long before the ball bounced in Goshen’s favor. Goshen eliminated the Panthers with a two-out, walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh for a 3-2 victory.
“We played with a lot of heart, but sometimes it’s just not meant to be,” Panthers coach Randy Stough said.
The tough loss signaled the end for a PCA (23-12) program that qualified for the state tournament in its initial campaign in the AHSAA. The Panthers spent several seasons competing in the Alabama Independent Schools Association.
“It was such a transition this year in a lot of ways,” said Stough, who was hired in November after a two-year coaching hiatus. “The thing that I am proud of is that these kids battled. They just know how to battle, and that’s something to build on.
“This was definitely a step forward. We want to make sure that we work hard in the offseason to get back here again.”
Five days ago, Goshen (29-14-1) squeezed by PCA with a late score in the regional tournament in Troy. With both schools getting bounced down to the loser’s bracket, the Panthers defeated Leroy 3-1 to earn an opportunity to avenge the setback.
Tied 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh, Haley Hughes stroked a one-out double, Shelby Vinson was intentionally walked and Elizabeth Galloway popped up to set the stage for Katherine Thomas’ game-winning single that fell inches away from Moore’s glove.
Thomas was 0-for-3 heading into the final at-bat. Stough decided it was best to pitch to the freshman infielder because Vinson destroyed PCA pitching during the South Central Regional last weekend.
“I really felt that she was due,” said Goshen coach Dee Hughes.
Hoots launched a solo home run to left center in the sixth, and teammate Lauren Davis stole home on a passed ball a frame later to lock the scoreboard at two runs apiece. The Panthers only mustered four hits against Galloway, a left-hander.
“We didn’t hit the ball the way we’re capable of hitting,” said Stough, who loses just three players. “We had to scratch and claw to get the few runs that we got in. It’s hard to win those kinds of games when you don’t hit the ball like you should have.”