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Persistent Panthers

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Bristol pitcher Jaylyn Mullenax sends a pitch to the plate during the Panthers’ 16-8 win over Lordstown. Mullenax recorded 10 strikeouts.

BRISTOLVILLE — After quickly falling behind by five runs, the Bristol Panthers battled back, scoring 11 runs in two innings and kept the pressure on throughout to win a 16-8 softball shootout over Lordstown.

“I thought that after getting down a few runs we did a good job keeping our energy out,” Panthers coach Alisha Kugler said. “That’s something that we’ve been working on, and coming around with the bats and playing pretty solid defensively.”

While Bristol finished hot, the team’s start was as cool as the brisk afternoon during which they played. The Panthers surrendered three runs off errors in the first two innings and found themselves trailing 5-0 heading into the bottom of the second.

Jaylyn Mullenax sparked Bristol, knocking in two runners to get the team on the board. Two batters later, Brittany Mooney sent the ball out of the park to score herself and Mullenax, bringing the Panthers within one.

Mullenax also sparked the team on the other side of the ball, stepping in the circle in the top of the third inning. The junior surrendered only five hits on 74 pitches and her blazing fastball was instrumental in striking out 10 Red Devil batters and throwing Lordstown off its groove.

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Panthers sophomore Megan King races to third base. King rounded the bases twice for Bristol and recorded one hit.

“She has been working really hard,” Kugler said. “She’s working weekly, going to lessons and she does a lot of stuff on her own as well as playing travel ball for Valley Extreme, and you can just see so much improvement. She was good as a freshman, but just leaps and bounds like even half that.”

Panthers junior Billie Miller went a perfect 5-for-5 from the plate and knocked in six runs. Both Jaylyn and Brooklyn Mullenax had three hits.

Hits weren’t a rarity in Thursday’s game, with the teams combining for 30 hits by the end of the game.

Bristol (6-4, 6-2), like every team, is still getting acclimated to the season after missing all of 2020.

“We lost five seniors last year and it’s a big turnover from that and we have a lot of new people,” Kugler said. “Like everyone else, we basically have two classes of rookies, so getting everybody acclimated to the program and figuring out who we are as a team, that’s been really important this year.”

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Lordstown pitcher Julia Durig fires a pitch during Thursday’s contest. Durig recorded one strikeout and had two hits and two RBIs.

With the remaining weeks before the tournament starts, Bristol wants to focus on the team’s fielding improving and backing up the pitching staff better.

Senior third baseman Lexie Drewek paced Lordstown at the plate with three hits. Julia Durig, who was on the mound for the Red Devils, had two RBIs.

“I thought we started really strong,” Lordstown coach Kim Strimple said. “We hit really well, got a nice lead, then we made some fundamental mistakes, they had one big inning and scored seven runs. We battled, but we just couldn’t get there at the end.”

Lordstown hosts a doubleheader Saturday, opening against Niles at noon, then they face McDonald at 3.

For Bristol, rallying back from a deficit Thursday was crucial to Kugler after the team’s 13-0 loss to Mathews on Monday.

“We struggled with that on Monday,” Kugler said. “We got down and our energy went down, but today, it was a different attitude. The effort was there and we just pushed through and they believed in themselves and that’s what I want to see going forward as a coach, especially going into this weekend.”

The Panthers are participating in the JoAnne Kernan Strikeout Cancer Classic this weekend. Tonight they take on Crestview and have a doubleheader against Howland and Ashtabula Edgewood on Saturday. All three games will be at McCune Park in Canfield.

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