CENTRAL — Central’s bid to make the state softball tournament had a shaky start but a strong finish Saturday afternoon.
The Wildcats rallied from an early deficit to turn back Fontainebleau 6-3 in the Class 5A softball playoffs. Next up for Central is No. 1 seed Alexandria Senior High in a Friday quarterfinal game at Frasch Park in Sulphur.
“I didn’t like the way we started,” Central coach Michelle Efferson said. “We were excited. I think our nerves might have got the better of us, but then we settled down. People forget we’re a young team, with four sophomores starting, and we’re still learning things.
“The thing I liked the most today was that the bottom half of our lineup came through. You always like to see that as a coach.”
Central went down 1-0 in the top of the first inning as the visitors capitalized on two errors, a single and a sacrifice fly by Alexis Fremin.
Bulldogs starter Brenae Bergeron shut out the Wildcats through the first three innings with the help of a double play and a sparkling running catch at the wall by center fielder Gabby Albi to give Fontainebleau (14-8) the early momentum.
The six through nine batters in the Central lineup accounted for four of its team’s runs and four RBIs. Bayleigh Anders reached base twice without a hit and scored both times. Heidi Zumo scored two runs and had an RBI single when Albi barely missed making another diving catch in center.
No. 9 batter Madaline Tarver had an RBI single in the sixth, and first baseman River Hubbard had a clutch double and a sacrifice fly for three RBIs for Central.
“River has been real solid for us,” Efferson said. “She’s a senior, and she doesn’t want her last season to be over.”
Central (24-6) turned the game around with two out in the bottom of the fourth inning. A walk to Kamryn Jordan and a bunt single by Raegan Willis put two runners on with no outs, but Bailie Johnson popped out and shortstop Bela Wineski threw out Jordan at third.
Then Albi appeared to catch Heidi Zumo’s fly ball, but it popped out of her glove when she hit the ground. Hubbard followed with her two-ru double, and the momentum was back with Central.
The Wildcats added a run in the fifth on Jordan’s solo home run and two more in the sixth on RBIs by Hubbard and Tarver.
“(Central) just never stopped coming,” Fontainebleau coach Chris Nelson said. “In the second round of the 5A playoffs it comes down to who wants it the most, and who stays with it for the full seven innings, not who just goes in stretches of playing well.
“We had our chances in the seventh inning, but we made a base-running mistake and Central made us pay.”
Nelson lauded his 24th-seeded Bulldogs for making it to the second round after losing catcher and team leader Meghan Penny after their eighth game to a leukemia diagnosis and seeing left fielder Haley Fremin (concussion) and second baseman second baseman Alexis Fremin (arm injury) miss a number of games.
After a rocky start, Central starter and winning pitcher Emily Danehower pitched five no-hit innings before the Bulldogs touched her for two more in the seventh. Key hits in that inning were a two-run single by Wineski and a triple by Haley Fremin.
Next up for Central is No. 1 seed Alexandria Senior High.
“We lost to them 10-1 in the Live Oak tournament,” Efferson said. “I know I’ll be calling around to see if I can find anything we can take advantage of.”