AHSAA Class 6A state softball tournament: Central-Phenix City ousted in heartbreaker

jerickson@ledger-enquirer.comMay 19, 2012 

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- For a moment, it looked like the Central-Phenix City softball team had added another highlight to a postseason full of improbable comebacks.

Down by a pair of runs against Bob Jones in an elimination game Saturday at the Alabama High School Association Class 6A state tournament, the Lady Red Devils scored three in the seventh inning to come back and take the lead.

Unfortunately, Bob Jones had one chance left. Helped by a pair of Central errors, Bob Jones rallied to score two runs in the bottom of the seventh and eliminate the Lady Red Devils in a 7-6 heartbreaker at Lagoon Park.

"We were just out of position; that's all that was," Lady Red Devils coach Bobby Cook said. "But oh well. The ball bounces one way, the ball bounces another sometimes. Nothing to be ashamed of."

Central (45-16-1) already had put together an improbable playoff run.

Placed in the losers bracket in the South Central Regional, the Lady Red Devils won four straight to qualify for the state tournament for the first time since 2001.

And even after losing their opener Friday, the Lady Red Devils felt they had a chance to make another run.

"We knew exactly what was ahead of us," Central pitcher Kristine Brown said. "Every team here deserves everything they get. I would have loved to make it the same way we did at the region tournament."

Down 1-0 after an Abby Guest RBI single in the first inning, Central came back

with runs in the second and third on Katie Webb's sacrifice fly and Kristin Studds' RBI single.

Katherine Cochran, the No. 9 hitter for Bob Jones, tied the score in the bottom of the third by belting a homer over the left-field fence, but Cassidy Davis' RBI single in the fourth gave Central a 3-2 lead.

Brown largely handcuffed Bob Jones' hitters for most of the game. Through seven innings, she allowed just six hits, one walk and hit one batter.

But a series of fielding mistakes by Central allowed Bob Jones to come back.

Back-to-back errors allowed the first two Bob Jones hitters to reach base in the bottom of the fifth, and Brianna Sullivan's RBI single, plus Sydney Booker's sacrifice fly, gave the Patriots a 4-3 lead.

Bob Jones added another run in the sixth to take a 5-3 lead and leave the Lady Red Devils to their last three outs.

"You could see the fight in every senior's eyes," Brown said. "We weren't ready to go home."

Brittany Russ and Leah Lancaster started off the inning with two consecutive singles, and then the Patriots' two errors allowed the Lady Red Devils to scratch together three runs and take a 6-5 lead.

After leaving 12 runners on base, Central's offensive burst came at exactly the right time against Guest, who pitched a complete game for Bob Jones.

"She made good pitches," Cook said. "Our girls put good swings on them, but we had just missed."

Unfortunately, the Lady Red Devils' defense faltered again. Cochran drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the seventh, and on Sullivan's sacrifice bunt, Central failed to cover first, and the ball went into the outfield.

With Cochran rounding third, the relay missed and went to the dugout, allowing Cochran to score and Sullivan to reach third.

Sullivan then headed home with the winning run on Booker's shot back up the middle.

"We have more fight than anyone in this tournament," Cook said. "I'm not ashamed to say it, and I'm not trying to take anything anyway from somebody, but we have more fight."

Saturday at Lagoon Park

Montgomery, Ala.

Central 011 100 3 --6 5 6

Bob Jones 101 021 2 --7 6 4

WP -- Abby Guest. LP -- Kristine Brown. Leading hitters -- Central Cassidy Davis 1-4, RBI; Kristian Studds 1-5; Brittany Russ 1-3, RBI, 2 R; Katherine Cochran 1-2, HR, 2 R, RBI; Leah Lancaster 1-3; Kristine Brown 1-3. Bob Jones Brianna Sullivan 2-3, RBI, 2 R; Abby Guest 1-3, RBI; Megan O'Rourk 1-3; Allie Sheets 0-2.

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