The East Ridge Lady Pioneers only won four softball games this spring and they came into the District 6-AA tournament at Central as the fourth seed, but they surely didn't play like that on Saturday morning in their semifinal game against the number-one seed Lady Pounders.
What had been a scoreless, defensive struggle turned into a hit-a-thon for Central as they sent a dozen batters to the plate in the sixth inning as they collected eight hits while scoring seven runs. That was the difference as Central advanced with the 7-0 victory.
The second semfinal game between second-seeded Red Bank and third-seed Hixson was a much better game and a whole lot of fun to watch.
Hixson scored four runs in the second inning and added two more in the third for a 6-0 lead, only to watch as the Lionettes slowly came back to win in the bottom of the seventh by a 7-6 final.
Hixson came right back to pound Tyner by a 14-2 final in the losers bracket.
Central will now face Red Bank on Monday at 4 with Hixson and East Ridge scheduled to play at 6. The Hixson-East Ridge winner will face the Central-Red Bank loser on Tuesday at 4 with the winner advancing to the championship game on Tuesday at 6. Should the winner of the losers bracket win against the winners bracket winner on Tuesday, they would come back to Central on Wednesday at 5 for the winner-take-all championship.
CENTRAL 7, EAST RIDGE 0: Central's Chasidy Ainslie and East Ridge's Alexis Moore were both sailing along with scoreless three hitters after five innings, but the Lady Pounders made sure it didn't end that way.
Sam Scott flied to center for the first out in the sixth before Central got four straight hits on both sides of a walk to settle the issue.
Alexis Grampp had a single while Brooke Parrott followed with a double to drive in the first run. Brittney Sylvester's double into the corner in left on an 0-2 pitch made it 2-0 before Chasidy Ainslie reached on an infield hit. Ally Welch walked before Destiny Payton and Tatum Morgan followed with RBI-singles.
Lexie Ainslie drove in the fifth run with a sacrifice fly to center before Scott reached on another infield hit. Grampp then had the biggest blow of the inning with a two-run single to conclude the scoring.
"I would have liked for our bats to have come around a little earlier, but we hung in there and they finally arrived," said Central coach LeeAnne Shurette after her team improved to 17-21.
"We're capable of hitting like that. Our record isn't very good because we played all the good teams, but it that will help us get ready for a tournament like this, it will have been worth it," she added.
East Ridge coach Sandy Mauser certainly couldn't find fault with the way her team battled.
"Eventually Central is going to get some hits, but I was proud of the way Alexis Moore kept them in check. These girls really wanted to win today and I'm proud of the way they battled, but Central scored when they needed to and we didn't have an answer," Mauser said, her team now 4-12 overall.
Central finished with seven runs on 11 hits, including at least one from everyone in the lineup except Welch. Lexie Ainslie, Grampp and Parrott all had two hits apiece for the Lady Pounders.
Chasidy Ainslie was the winning pitcher for Central after allowing just three hits and no walks. She finished with eight strikeouts.
Holly Wilson, Marissa Moschkau and Moore al had a single for the Lady Pioneers.
RED BANK 7, HIXSON 6: Ciera Taylor led off the Hixson second with a towering homer to left while Virginia Rivers followed with a double before Miranda Lewis and Cambree Spurlock both singled. They all scored before Central retired the side.
Rivers led off the third for Hixson with a single before Spurlock got hit by a pitch with one out. A walk to Becka Poteet loaded the bases with Rivers and courtesy runner Savannah Keef both scoring on a Central error.
Things were looking good for the Lady Wildcats at that point, but the game was a long way from being over.
Meanwhile, Red Bank countered with single runs in the first and third innings. Autumn Babb singled and later scored on a Hixson error in the first while McKenzie Cagle led off the third with a double and stole third before scoring on a groundout by Bri Whitlock.
Cagle started a three-run fifth with another double before Whitlock reached on an error as Cagle scored. Allison Walker reached on a fielders choice before Haylee Millard sent Whitlock and Walker home with a double.
Babb's two-out single in the sixth knotted the score at 6-6 when Danielle Usher scored following a leadoff walk while Millard scored the game winner with nobody out in the seventh.
Millard walked to lead off before Taylor Bonds singled. Usher was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Kendall Farr ended it with a double to right-center.
"I don't know why, but we didn't come ready to play," explained Red Bank coach Mandi Munn.
"Games don't always start out like we want, but we didn't give up. I hate to yell at these girls, but sometimes that's what it takes to get their attention. This was a big win for our team as we haven't been in this position in a long, long time," Munn nodded.
Hixson coach Jayme Putman liked the way her team started, but had no answer for why they stopped doing what they had been doing to get the early lead.
"We came out and hit the ball well early, but we just stopped hitting after that. It's always a close game when we play Red Bank, but we let up a little and I don't know why. It's tough to come back after a loss like that, but we'll just have to keep going," Putman said following the four-inning win over Tyner.
Cagle, Babb and Farr all had two hits as Red Bank finished with nine.
Hixson also finished with nine hits with Rivers the only Lady Wildcat with two.
EAST RIDGE 000 000 0 -- 0 3 1
CENTRAL 000 007 x -- 7 11 3
Moore and Najulleah; C. Ainsie and Sylvester.
HIXSON 042 000 0 -- 6 9 1
RED BANK 101 031 1 -- 7 9 1
Green and Spurlock; Farr, Walker (2) and Simpson.
(email John Hunt at nomarathonmoose@Comcast.net)