The Central Lady Pounders quickly saw they needed to change their approach at the plate in their Region 3-AA softball semifinal Monday. After their first at-bat, the reigning region champs scored in every inning and won 9-2 over visiting Polk County.
"We struggled at first with the bat, but we made some adjustments and that's when it came around," said Central coach LeeAnne Shurrette, whose team will host Meigs County in the region final Wednesday at 5:30. "We had some people step up that did some things that caused trouble."
Center fielder Ciara Belcher's slap bunt ignited a two-run second inning that seemed to ease any pressure the team might have been feeling. The bunt scored Sarah Walker. Belcher then stole third and scored on Brooke Eller's groundout.
"Ciara's slap bunt right there was important," Shurrette said. "We needed to score right then, and that picked us up. We wanted to make things happen - just put the ball in play. We want to be really aggressive with baserunning, and we want teams to earn every hit they get."
Central's 14 hits came in all varieties, including sophomore Hannah Powell's two-run homer in the sixth. Powell led the onslaught with three hits, three RBIs and two runs scored.
"We have a lot of confidence," Powell said. "Today we had to adjust to their slower pitching, but once we did we were all right. I feel we can take the whole thing. I really believe in this team. Last year we got down to Gibbs [in the state tournament], and it seemed we gave up. That won't happen again."
Central (26-12) scored single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings before putting the game away with four in the sixth on Powell's blast, Chasidy Ainslie's RBI groundout and pitcher Shelby Willard's solo homer.
In her third game back from a midseason knee injury, Willard struck out 10 batters and held the Lady Wildcats scoreless until she tired in the seventh.
"She got hurt in one of our district games, and Chasidy carried the load for us and did a fantastic job," Shurrette said. "Shelby's still working on getting back in form, and we're just trying to get some innings in for her. I feel confident throwing either girl out there against anyone."
Belcher, Walker and Brittany Silvester each had two hits for Central, while Lydia Triplett had two hits for Polk County.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6296.