It took some time this year for the Central softball team to settle in.
After a seventh-place finish at the state tournament last season, the team lost a number of key seniors to graduation and, as a result, had to break in a new team. After some growing pains, though, coach Matt Bell thinks the team is playing its best ball as it heads into regionals on Friday.
“You always want your teams to peak toward the end of the season,” he said. “I feel like we’ve played our best softball the last three weeks of the season. I think we’ve started to figure some things out.”
Central has won eight of its last 11 games, including an Area 3-7A championship, and will get Enterprise at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Troy Sportsplex in the South Central Regional.
Enterprise beat Central earlier this year after the Lady Red Devils committed a couple late errors.
That was then. Now, Bell said pitching and defense has been the catalyst for the late season success. Gracie Deaton and Alexa Shiver have taken over the roles in the circle vacated by Allie Kelley.
“They have been lights out,” Bell said. “It’s a good feeling to know they’ll keep the games close for us and give us a chance to be in every game. They’ve been really good all year. After last year, when Allie left people automatically thought we didn’t have an answer there. But those two have really stepped up to fill the hole.”
Bell couldn’t single out anyone in his lineup as being a key. From Jadia Jones to Katie Webb to others, he said everyone has made an impact. Whereas last season, they relied on Kelley in the circle and Webb at the plate to get it done, it’s been someone different every game this year.
“I could go through our whole lineup,” Bell said. “That’s what I think has made us so good. Last year, Katie was the one getting it every time. This year, it seems like every game, someone new is stepping up.”
They will, of course, be challenged by Enterprise. Bell said it is a team with a strong No. 1 pitcher, good small ball and solid defense.
“We’ll have our hands full, for sure,” he said.
Prattville and Auburn will play on the other side of the regional. Two of the four teams will qualify for the state tournament, which will be held next week.
AHSAA Class 7A softball regional
When: Friday and Saturday; Game 1 vs. Enterprise begins at 5:30 p.m. ET
Where: Troy Sportsplex