By Mark Clark
It was close, but not quite enough. Central’s Lady Red Devils came within three outs of perhaps claiming their second regular season tournament since 2015. The team ran through the competition until the final game of the tournament at Choccolocco Park IN Oxford last weekend.
The Lady Red Devils lost the title contest to Spain Park 3-1 to finish second after winning seven straight games in the tournament. Central beat Vestavia Hills, Cleburne County, Wellborn, Central of Clay, Munford, Brookwood and Chelsea before facing Spain Park over the two-day event.
“I am very proud of the girls this week. We challenged them to not let this be their best. There is a lot of season left to play and we know the end of March doesn’t matter. It’s all about how you play in May. I will tell you I’d never count this group of ladies out. They have something special inside of them,” Central coach Mitchell Holt said of his squad.
Holt was especially proud of the team responding like it did after losing its first area game last week to Auburn 12-2.
“It was a great week for our girls. They responded well after the tough area loss last week. They didn’t allow that game to define who they were going to be moving forward,” Holt said.
Central began last week with a pair of games against Prattville schools before entering the tournament in Oxford. The Lady Red Devils defeated Prattville Christian 8-5 and then Prattville 8-2. The win over Prattville Christian was sort of an awakening for Central pitcher Desalynn Nesbitt. Nesbitt tossed eight innings, allowed five hits and only two earned runs.
“Desalynn really seemed to find out just how good she could be during this game. The team also battled and was able to get the job done,” Holt said.
The victory over Prattville Christian was the first of four victories Nesbitt would collect during the week.
Against Prattville Christian, Nesbitt held her opponent close until the team rallied for three runs in the top of the eighth to win 8-5. In the top of the eighth, Mckinnon Howard and Kristen White both had singles before Shelby Newsome cracked a home run to give her team the three-run victory. Jaleigh Hardin, Kyleigh McHargue, White and Newsome were each 2-for-4 at the plate for Central.
Against Prattville, Lane Thaxton was the winning pitcher, giving up five hits and no runs over 4.2 innings.
After scoring a run in the first, Central added two more in the third to secure the win. Howard and White both had singles before scoring on a double by McHargue.
White was 3-for-4 and Howard was 3-for-3 to lead Central at the plate.
In the opening game of the tournament in Oxford, Central defeated Vestavia Hills 6-2. Nesbitt was the winning pitcher, going four innings, allowing five hits and two runs.
At the plate, Nayelica Diaz was 2-for-2 while Newsome was 2-for3.
Central run-ruled Cleburne County, 12-2, with Brianna Leininger getting the pitching victory. She gave up one hit. White was 2-for-2 and Diaz was 2-for-3. Bailey Davis and Hardin were each 1-for-1.
Leininger picked up another victory inside the circle in a 5-4 win over Wellborn. She gave up three hits and three runs. Diaz was 2-for-2 to lead Central’s batters. Orianna Watters and White were each 1-for-2.
Central beat Central of Clay 11-3 in its next game of the tournament. Briana Murray got he win, giving up five hits and three runs.
White and Howard were both 2-for-2. Newsome and Watters were each 1-for-1. Kahia Nicholson was 1-for2 with a double and two RBIs.
Leininger got her third win of the week in Central’s 7-0 victory over Munford. She went five innings and allowed three hits.
At the plate, White was 2-for-2. Madison Hurt and Hardin were each 1-for-1.
Nesbitt was the winning pitcher against Brookwood. She tossed a no-hitter. At the plate, Fallyn Jordan, White, Newsome and Howard were each 1-for-2.
Diaz scored the winning run after being hit by a pitch and coming home on a single by Jordan.
Nesbitt collected her fourth win of the week in a 10-inning 5-4 victory. Nesbitt gave up five hits and four runs. White was 3-for-3 and Howard was 2-for-3 at the plate. Leininger was 1-for-1.
In the tenth inning with the game tied at 4-4 and with two outs, McHargue was hit b y a pitch and Nicholson was sent in as a pinch runner. Nicholson stole second and the throw caromed into left field. Nicholson headed to third and did not stop as there was an errant throw to the plate. She scored from first to end the game.
In the final game of the tournament, Central went toe-to-toe with Spain Park until the top of the sixth inning when the Lady Red Devils gave up three runs to lose 4-1. Leininger took the pitching loss. Diaz, Hurt, Murray and Howard were each 1-for-2.
Central, 16-6, was scheduled to play at Smiths Station this past Tuesday in their second area game of the season. The Lady Red Devils will be in Enterprise today to play both Enterprise and Geneva. Next Wednesday, the team will be on the road to play a doubleheader at Rehobeth.