Central mounted a furious rally in the seventh inning, but came up a run short in losing to top-ranked Sparkman 6-5 in the opening round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A state softball tournament at Lagoon Park.
The Lady Red Devils, who were making their first state tournament appearance since 2001, fell into the losers bracket, where they were scheduled to play Baker on Friday night at 8 p.m. Baker los its opener 9-3 to Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa.
Central (44-15-1) trailed 6-3 heading into the top of the seventh. Kristin Studds led off with her third hit of the game, which prompted Sparkman to replace starter Meg Willis with Jenna Korak.
Korak struggled, hitting Kalen Scott and giving up a single to Brittany Russ to load the bases. Studd scored on a wild pitch to bring the Red Devils within two, 6-4.
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After Leah Lancaster popped up, Katie Webb walked to re-load the bases. Kristine Brown grounded to the first baseman as Scott scored to make it 6-5.
Kirsten Powell then chopped a ball into the ground that Korak jumped to catch, then she threw out Powell at first to end the game.
Central jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Cassidy Davis and Studds reached with back-to-back hits. Davis scored as Russ reached on an error by second baseman Jordan Bullock. Studds scored when Lancaster beat out a potential double-play throw.
Sparkman put together five hits in the bottom of the second to take a 3-2 lead. Bullock drove in two.Central scored an unearned run in the third to tie the game. Studds reached on the first error by Bullock. After going to second on a wild pitch, she scored on Russ’ single.
Sparkman took the lead for good with an unearned run in the bottom of the third. Willis, who led off with a base on balls, scored on a two-out error by Davis, the shortstop.
A controversial call on Davis led to a pair of runs in the fifth as Sparkman increased its lead to 6-3.
Taylor Hurford led off with a walk. Courtesy runner Ariel Smith went to second on a sacrifice fly. Shannon Summers hit a grounder to Davis, who fielded the ball and turned and tagged Hurford. The umpires ruled obstruction on Davis, putting Smith on third.
Bevia Robinson hit a grounder back to Brown, who threw home, where Russ tagged out Smith.After Bullock reached on an infield single to load the bases, Korak singled in two runs for the three-run lead.
Brown (30-8) took the loss. She gave up six runs (five earned) on nine hits and six walks. She struck out two.
Friday at Lagoon ParkGame 1Central 201 000 2—5-9-1Sparkman 031 020 x—6-9-2WP—Meg Willis (NA). LP—Kristine Brown (30-8).Leading hitters—Central Cassidy Davis 1-4, R; Kristin Studds 3-4, 3R; Kaelen Scott 0-3, R; Brittany Russ 2-4, 2RBI; Leah Lancaster 2-3, RBI; Kristine Brown 0-4, RBI; Lauren Hughes 1-2. Sparkman Bevia Robinson 0-4, R; Jordan Bullock 2-4, 2RBI; Janna Korak 1-1, 2RBI; Ashlee Price 1-4; Hannah Palmer 2-2, R; Shannon Summers 1-3, RBI, 2R.