Central-Phenix City exploded for five runs in the first inning and the Lady Red Devils' Brittany Russ powered her second home run of the tournament to lead Central to the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A Area 7 title over a game but weary Auburn team 10-2 Friday evening.
The win not only clinched the No. 1 seed for the champions in next week's region tournament in Troy but also set a single-season record of 37 wins for the Central softball program.
Auburn came all the way through the losers bracket to face Central for the title and played three straight games Friday, first eliminating Smiths Station 8-3, as the Panthers committed seven errors, and then winning a thrilling 9-8 game over Opelika.
But the Lady Red Devils were not to be denied as they pounced on Auburn freshman starting pitcher Taylor Holland for five runs in the first inning. Those five runs chased Holland from the first inning in favor of Sara Jackson.
After Russ doubled in the first run, Auburn's Amy Briggs dropped a ball that would have been the third out and left the score at 1-0. Instead, Webb helped her cause with a run-scoring double that plated two more runs, and Ashton Wicker and Cassidy Davis had run-scoring singles to make it 5-0.
Central coach Bobby Cook rolled the dice and chose eighth-grader Katie Webb as the team's starting pitcher. Webb responded well to the challenge, despite a rough beginning.
After hitting the first batter of the game and giving up an RBI single to Ashley Harris, Webb pitched four complete innings and gave up only another single. The win improved Webb's record to 9-5 for the year.
Leading 5-1 in the third, Russ and her teammates salted away the victory with a three-run homer that hit the scoreboard beyond the center-field fence. K.K. Scott knocked in a run to make it 9-1.
"I cannot say how proud I was of our team and the way they played in this tournament," Cook said. "And Katie (Webb) did an outstanding job for us starting."
Central seventh-grader Haley Deaton pitched two innings of relief and gave up a single run. Kristine Brown finished the game by pitching a scoreless seventh. For Auburn, Holland came back in the seventh and struck out the side.
"We just ran out of gas and really had nothing left," Auburn coach Chris Sanders said. "Our girls were on the field all day to get in that title game, and, win or lose, we knew we were going to Troy next week."
The star for Auburn was Harris. She had the run-scoring hit against Webb and was the only Auburn player with more than one hit in a losing cause. She delivered the winning hit against Opelika and was 3-for-3 for against Smiths Station. For the day, the second baseman had only one error in three games, went 8-for-11 with four doubles and five RBIs.
Friday at Central-Phenix City
Auburn 8, Smiths Station 3
Smiths Sta. 003 000 0 --3 10 7
Auburn 040 301 x --8 8 0
WP- Angelica Rogers. LP- Nichole Burnham. Leading Hitters-A-Ashley Harris 3x3, 2
Auburn 9, Opelika 8
Opelika 201 311 0--8 7 0
Auburn 001 322 1--9 16 5
WP-Emily Glasscock. LP-Alexis Sydnor. Leading Hitters-O-A. Sydnor 2x4, Eboni Jones 2x3; A-Ashley Harris 3x5, 2@B, 2RBI, Mackenzie Huey 2x3, Stephanie Gamper 3x4, 2 RBI. Records-Opelika 26-17, Auburn 31-20.
Central-Phenix City 10, Auburn 2
Central 504 100 0--10 13 0
Auburn 100 001 0--2 6 1
WP-Katie Webb (9-5). LP-Taylor Holland (1-1). Leading Hitters-C-Brittany Russ 3x4,@B, HR, 4 RBI, K.K. Scott 2x4, Webb 2x4,2RBI, Cassidy Davis 2x5,RBI, Kristen Webb 2x5, RBI; Auburn-Ashley Harris 2x3, RBI. Records-Central 37-12, Auburn 31-21.