The Milton Panthers had their chances.
In the fourth meeting with Niceville this season (in Tuesday’s Region 1-7A semifinals), the Panthers likely felt in the game until the fourth inning, when the Eagles connected for two homers and a total of five runs driven in to ultimately produce a 10-0 win.
“It was a really good season,” Milton coach Kevin Jordan said. “We finished 18-7 and made it to the regional semifinals – which is an accomplishment within itself. We’re disappointed in the way we played (Tuesday night), but a lot of that had to do with Niceville. You’ve gotta give Niceville credit. They came to play and showed why they are the program that they are.”
The Panthers and starting pitcher Megan Robertson retired the first three Niceville batters in order, then Robertson struck out the side in the second inning.
The Panthers got runners on often in the loss, stranding a combined three runners in scoring position in the third and fourth innings.
But then the wheels seemed to come off in the bottom of the fourth.
After Niceville lifted the lead to 3-0, Grace McIntosh smacked a three-run shot, followed by a two-run homer from Sydney Byrd.
“You sure like to see that out of your freshman (McIntosh) … a big three-run homer that helped separate and relax us,” Niceville coach Danny Hensley said. “Their kid (Robertson) is a really good pitcher. She made us chase a lot of pitches in the earlier games this season. (Tuesday night) we were able to make her throw in the zone more. We just got the bat head on a lot of balls against a good pitcher.”
Fortunately for the Panthers, next season seems optimistic as Milton softball graduates just two seniors (one starter) this year.
With their top hitter being a freshman (Maddie Vasquez), and Robertson just a sophomore – the sky could be the limit next season.
“I think we will return the nucleus of our team next year,” Jordan said. “We are losing two players that meant a lot to this program in Paige Brown and Taylor Forte. They’ve both been here for four years and helped us get where we are now.
””This team fought all year long, and I think we have a chance to really improve in the offseason. I’m very proud of this team, they represented Milton very well.”
Region 1-7A Finals
•When: 7 p.m. Friday
•Where: Niceville High
•Who: Niceville Eagles vs. Gainesville Purple Hurricanes