By Mark Clark
As a rollercoaster season came to a close last week, the Central High Lady Red Devils wanted to show they were ready for a run in the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Class 7A playoffs. And, with a win over top ranked Class 6A Northview High of Dothan and a 3-0 loss to Eufaula High, the team appears to have accomplished that goal.
Central had to rally late to defeat Northview 12-2 and to win by the mercy rule. The team then held Eufaula scoreless for the first five innings of a game played at Auburn University’s softball stadium.
“Northview is one of the better teams in the state, especially when they have their number one pitcher in the circle. They finished runners-up in the Hoover Tournament – the same tournament we struggled in,’ Central coach Mitchell Holt said.
“The girls stuck to the game plan of keeping it close and trying to outlast their top pitcher. Both Gracie and their pitcher were on a pitch count and when both teams pulled their starting pitcher we were down 2-1. Because we were able to keep it close, we knew we had a chance and put together a 10-run inning in the fifth to run-rule the Cougars. Gracie Deaton had a great game in the circle and at the plate. Tatyana Harris also played well. Both seniors were able to go out on a high note for their last home game.”
Deaton was the starter in the circle against Northview, but did not figure into the final decision as she left the contest after one batter in the fifth inning. Deaton recorded six strikeouts with two walks. While she allowed six hits, Deaton did not allow any earned runs. Murray stepped in to relieve Deaton when she met her pitch count in the fifth inning. Murray struck out two batters and gave up no hits or runs.
Kristen White led Central at the plate with a 3-for-3 performance. Harris was 2-for-3. Shelby Newsome, Kyleigh McHargue and Deaton were all 1-for-3. Deaton had a home run with three RBI. Newsome had a triple with three RBI. McHargue had a double with two RBI.
The Lady Red Devils followed the victory with their 3-0 loss to Eufaula in a game played in the softball stadium at Auburn University – Jane B. Moore Field. All three runs scored by the Lady Tigers came in the bottom of the sixth inning to ruin a great pitching performance by Deaton. To that point, Deaton had struck out four, walked none and given up three hits. She finished her time on the mound by allowing three runs of which only two were earned and four hits.
Jaleigh Hardin and Harris both were 2-for-3 at the plate to lead Central. Nayelica Diaz and Newsome were both 1-for-3.
“Eufaula at Auburn University was a well played game on both sides. It was scoreless going into the bottom of the sixth. I felt it was one of the best games we pitched all year,” Holt said. “We had opportunities, but couldn’t get the big hit. In the sixth, we misplayed a bunt and the next batter tripled. It was two good teams playing at a high level and it came down to who got the big hit.”
Central finished the regular season with a record of 25-20-1 and 2-2 in area play.
“The regular season was a rollercoaster ride. We had highs and lows which we expected with only having two upperclassmen in the starting lineup most games. A lot of lessons were learned and I feel it will help us in the future,” Holt said.
The area tournament started Tuesday with Central playing Smiths Station. The winner was to play Auburn in the second game. The loser of the first game will play the loser of the second game today and will then advance to play the winner of the second game. In order for the team which plays its way back to the championship game through the loser’s bracket of the tournament to win the area crown, it must beat the team that wins the winner’s bracket twice. If both teams in the championship game have one loss, the winner will be the area champion. The top two teams from the tournament will advance to play in the Regional Tournament in Troy beginning May 11th. The State Tournament will begin on May 16 at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park.