Central might be the only high softball team in District 6-AA with an overall winning record, but the Lady Purple Pounders still have work to do to win the league's regular-season championship and earn the top seeding for the district tournament.
They took a step closer to their goal Tuesday.
Central did enough both early and late to withstand a sixth-inning rally by host East Ridge and win 9-3.
Central (10-6) improves to 3-0 in a district in which the six teams play each other one time. Red Bank (4-8) also is 3-0 and hosts Central on April 10 at 4:30 p.m.
"It's kind of like do-or-die for you in the district standings," Central coach LeeAnne Shurette said. "All we do is take that one and go on to the next one. We've got Brainerd and Red Bank next week, so we should know where we stand after that."
Winning pitcher Chasidy Ainslie held East Ridge (2-9, 1-2) scoreless on three hits through five innings while enjoying a 6-0 lead from the third inning on. She ended up allowing eight hits, issued one walk and had seven strikeouts.
The Lady Pioneers' rally that cut the score in half began with a pop-fly double to shallow right-center by losing pitcher Alexis Moore after Shurette had just instructed her outfielders to back up. Tatyana Najeeullah followed Holly Wilson's single with a two-run double off the center-field fence. She eventually scored on Abby Sweatman's one-out single.
"We came out strong and then kind of backed off a couple of innings with our bats," Shurette said. "That gave them a little spark."
The Lady Pioneers made one error through the first six innings but contributed three during Central's three-run seventh.
"We started out a little flat," East Ridge coach Sandy Mauser said. "We had some good, solid contact, though. But against a team like Central, you've got to have that all the time. Give them credit. They hit the ball. I thought our pitcher mixed it up pretty good. We played solid defense, but they hit the ball in the holes."
Brooke Parrott went 3-for-4 for the Lady Pounders, drove in two runs and scored twice. Alexis Grampp raced home on the back end of a double steal in addition to hitting a home run. She ended up 2-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored.
Lexie Ainslie, who hit a two-run single in the seventh, and Destiny Payton each went 2-for-4 for Central.
Wilson went 2-for-3 and was the only Lady Pioneer with more than one hit. Sweatman stole two bases.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.