TUPELO – Instead of the usual slugfest, Amory and Tupelo opened up the slow-pitch softball season last Tuesday night with a defensive battle.

The Lady Panthers flashed the leather and picked up key homers from seniors Emma Walker and Connor Stevens to come away with the 5-4 season-opening win. They followed that up with a 10-0 victory against Houston on Thursday night.

“We have taken a bunch of reps on our defense, and I thought that went well tonight,” Amory coach Chris Pace said. “Our older girls played really well tonight, and I was excited for them.”

Walker started the game off with a bang for the Lady Panthers as she hit a solo homer on the first pitch of the game. Stevens doubled behind her, but Tupelo got out of the inning by retiring the next three in order.

Amory made it 4-0 in the top of the second with a three-run inning. Maggie Kate Cummings, Cassidy Simmons and Reese Griffith loaded the bases with three straight singles. Madison Kirkpatrick picked up an RBI with a grounder to second.

McKinley Dean had the big hit of the inning, a two-run double to clear the bases.

Stevens smashed her solo homer with two outs in the top of the fifth.

“Your three or four really good ones still have a shot to hit one and make it interesting,” Pace said. “Your other ones, it’s a defensive battle.”

Griffith had another two singles to go 3 for 3 on the night.

Defensively, Walker made a diving stop at short in the bottom of the second to rob a hit, and Griffith snagged a hard liner at first base on the next play.

The Lady Panthers also turned a pair of double plays – one started by Simmons in the circle in the third inning and the other by Walker in the bottom of the fourth.

Tupelo cut it to a one-run game in the sixth on a Nakiya Cayson three-run homer, but Simmons retired the Lady Wave in order in the seventh to preserve the win.

“McKinley came out and had a great hit, and she hasn’t played for a year,” Pace said. “Emma and Connor are both big players, and they showed up tonight for us. We had some bright spots, but we have a lot to work on before we catch Smithville and Nettleton.”

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