See photos of the game here
By Mark Clark
Central High’s girl’s softball team made it to the AHSAA Class 7A championship tournament, but its stay was brief. The Lady Red Devils lost two games in two days to end their season at 34-19.
The biggest problem the Lady Red Devils had at the tournament was one that they had avoided for most of the season – errors. Central committed 10 errors – five in each game – to be eliminated from the eight-team event at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park.
“It was just a case of us trying to do too much. We made the situation bigger than it was. We made some errors by trying to make something happen when we should have held on to the ball. We certainly would have liked to have played better. In the two games we played, we gave up five earned runs. The errors we what hurt us and that was not the usual way we play. Our defense has been solid,” Central coach Mitchell Holt said.
Errors were not the only reason for the two losses. Central’s performance at the plate was also lacking.
“We could not get the big hit late. We were in both games for a while and then they got the hits they needed to win. We did not. We played the two best teams there and kind of shocked them for a while. Hewitt-Trussville won the tournament and Sparkman was runner-up,” Holt said.
But, even with the disappointing end to the 2019 season, the 2020 season has Holt optimistic.
“We lose three seniors, but none of them were starters. We have our entire starting lineup back next season and all of our pitchers. We are holding tryouts this week and will have our team for next season by Friday. After that, we will take about a week off and start working on next season. Now that we have some experience at the state tournament, we should be excited about next season,” Holt said.
In their opening game of the tournament, the Lady Red Devils ran out to an early lead against Sparkman, the No. 2 ranked team in the state going into the tournament. Central scored three runs in the top of the first inning and appeared ready to make a statement to the other teams in the tournament.
Shelby Newsome started the game off with a single. Madison Hurt followed Newsome by reaching base on a walk. With one out, Newsome took third on an error by the Sparkman catcher and then scored on that same error. Jaleigh Hardin hit a home run to drive in Hurt and herself to make the score 3-0.
Sparkman received a pair of gifts to start the bottom of the inning in the form of two errors on its first two ground balls. A double drove in both runners to make the score 3-2. With one out, a single tied the contest. Another single drove in another run to make the score 4-3. Sparkman made the score 5-3 on a ground out and 6-3 with a single for the last run of the first inning.
Central scored its final run in the top of the fourth inning. With two outs, Bailey Davis tripled. She scored on a single by Mckinnon Howard.
Sparkman added four more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to make the final total 10-4.
Lane Thaxton took the pitching loss for Central. She went only one inning and allowed six runs, but none of them were earned. The final four runs were credited to Desalynn Nesbitt, who relieved Thaxton after the first inning. Breanna Leininger closed out the game’s last two outs.
At the plate, Central had five total hits. Thaxton and Howard were each 1-for-2. Hardin and Davis were each 1-for-3. Newsome was 1-for4. Hardin had two RBI with her home run. Davis had a triple in the loss.
In the second game, which began last Thursday, was finished on Friday due to rain. The game was suspended with the score tied at 1-1 in the top of the third inning. When the game was resumed, Hewitt-Trussville scored three runs in the fourth inning, two in the fifth inning and one in the sixth to win 7-3. Central scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth for its final runs.
With two outs in the sixth inning, Howard walked. Newsome was then hit by a pitch. Howard scored on a single by Hurt. Newsome scored on a single by Kyleigh McHargue.
Nesbitt was the losing pitcher, allowing seven hits, giving up six runs of which only two were earned. Thaxton finished the game by allowing one more run on two hits over the final two innings.
Hurt and Hardin were each 2-for-4 to lead the Lady Red Devils at the plate. Hardin had a double and one RBI.