CENTRAL — Over the weekend, Central sophomore Raegan Willis set four national records in powerlifting.
On Tuesday, the Wildcats designated hitter muscled a towering home run to straightaway center field with Alyssa Habig on second base for the only runs of the game as Central claimed a 2-0 win over Live Oak.
The home win for Central (18-6, 4-3 in District 4-5A) evened the district series after Live Oak (18-6, 4-2) defeated the Wildcats 4-0 earlier in the season.
It was the eighth home run and 23rd RBI for Willis, who is batting .500 for the season.
For Live Oak it was an afternoon of frustration, while for Central’s winning pitcher Emily Danehower it was a game of narrow escapes.
The visitors stranded 14 baserunners, leaving runners on in every inning except the fifth and ending three innings with the bases loaded.
Danehower faced a bases loaded, no-outs situation in the fifth inning, but shortstop Bayleigh Anders threw out a runner at the plate on a close play, and a strikeout and pop up ended the inning.
“Emily did a great job on the mound, controlling the batters,” Central coach Michelle Efferson said, “and what helped us is the defense made plays behind her to get us out of some jams.”
Even though the Wildcats committed four errors, that didn’t bother Efferson.
“We know them, and they know us,” she said. “They’re a great team, and they’re going to hit the ball hard at you.”
Live Oak pitcher Savannah Hall surrendered only three hits in six innings, but Willis’ blast proved fatal when the Eagles couldn’t capitalize on their scoring opportunities.
“The key to the game was the first three innings,” Live Oak coach Michelle Morris said. “We loaded the bases twice and couldn’t score. That gives the momentum to the other team. It’s their home game, and it just gives them a little lift.
“Savannah (Hall) has been the linchpin to our success in district, but we’ve got to back her up with some runs. We had some hits but just not at the right time.”
Hall did have some strong defensive support, especially from her outfield. Left fielder Ashton Priester sparkled in the fifth inning, hauling down a fly ball near the wall with her back to the infield and chasing another down running full speed toward the foul line.
Central also loaded the bases in the second inning on a walk, a single and an error, but Eagles second baseman Lindsey Rizzo forced Danehower at second base and Hall struck out Heather Zumo to end the threat.
“When we’ve lost, we’ve been shut out,” Efferson said. “I asked the girls to score early, so we didn’t have to come back in the late innings.”
Live Oak threatened again in the top of the seventh, when an error and a two-out single by Rizzo gave them two baserunners before a high fly ball to center ended the game.
Was Efferson nervous when Live Oak began to rally in the seventh inning?
“It’s girls softball,” she said. “I’m always nervous.”