Bluffton rallied twice Wednesday, first to win 4-3 and force a second game, then to win 10-6 over Carolina Forest in a winner-take-all playoff matchup to earn a place in the Class 4-A Lower State softball tournament.
The Panthers led 3-0 and 6-3 in the second game, but the Bobcats rallied both times, including a four-run burst in the fifth inning to seal the win.
With the game knotted at 6, the Bobcats' Lily Otten led off with a single, then scored on a Jordyn Parker single, and Mikyla Houghlan drove a three-run homer over the center-field fence to put the Panthers away for good.
Courtney Smith went the distance in both games for Bluffton (19-5), striking out 16 in 10 innings.
In the deciding Game 2, both pitchers -- Bluffton's Smith and Carolina Forest's Emily Merriam -- wore down and the Panthers out-hit the Bobcats 13-12.
The Panthers (24-4), the defending Lower State champs, had already beaten the Bobcats and North Augusta in the double-elimination District VI tournament and needed just one win to advance again.
Merriam reached on an error to open the top of the second inning and pinch-runner Leah Belac scored on a swinging bunt from Cheyenne McKenna. Emily Best's RBI single scored Natalie Hardwick, and McKenna scored on Angelina Santoro's RBI double to give the Panthers a 3-0 edge in the top of the second.
Bluffton came right back, however, with three runs in the bottom half of the inning, keyed by a two-run single by Morganne Parker.
Carolina Forest added another run in the third when Kyleigha McKenna hit a one-out single, took second and third on an error in center field and scored on an error by Bobcats' catcher Whitney Morrell. The Panthers stretched the led to 6-3 in the fourth when Best and Sara Sweatt led off with back-to-back singles, then scored on singles from Monica Mullis and McKenna.
Bluffton's Kim Kerby, who went 3 for 3 in Game 2, hit a two-run single in the bottom of the inning and scored on a single from Morrell as the Bobcats tied the game at 6 before the Bobcats' decisive fifth-inning outburst.
Carolina Forest led early in the first game, going up 1-0 when Sweatt, a 2012 All-State selection, was walked by Smith and scored on a Mullis single.
Bluffton answered in the third with a two-run single by Houghlan, to go up 2-1, then extended the lead to 4-1 in the fifth RBI singles from Houghlan and Kerby.
Morganne Parker was 3 for 3 with a double and two runs in Game 1. Houghlan was 2 for 3 with two RBIs, and Jordyn Parker was 2 for 3 with two runs.