The 2014 Central softball team matched what the previous two Lady Purple Pounders teams did in winning the District 6-AA high school regular season. But Monday at Central, this year's Lady Pounders team did one better.
Sparked by a five-run fourth inning, Central defeated Red Bank 8-2 in the winners-bracket final of the district tournament.
In doing so, the Lady Pounders not only earned a spot in today's final but also guaranteed themselves a spot in the Region 3 tournament scheduled to begin Monday with district champions hosting semifinals.
The last two Central teams lost in winners-bracket finals and subsequently lost their next game and had their seasons come to an end.
"I think it just goes to show that all you do before the district tournament is just practice to get ready for it," Central coach LeeAnne Shurette said. "It comes down to you've got to be first or second to move on. This group really came together as a team. They really fight for it, and that's what I like about it."
Today's action begins with Hixson, which beat East Ridge in a losers-bracket game Monday, taking on Red Bank in the losers-bracket final with the other region berth at stake. The winner plays Central (17-21) at 6 p.m.
"We really want to play at home Monday," Shurette said. "Our goal still is to win the district tournament."
The Lady Pounders led 2-0 going to the bottom of the fourth inning, and Red Bank pitcher Kendall Farr registered the first two outs then. But Central's Sam Scott singled to right-center and things didn't stop unti the Lady Pounders had sent 11 to bat in the inning. Highlights included winning pitcher Brooke Parrott's two-RBI double and Destiny Payton's run-scoring single.
Parrott, who struck out the first nine she faced, allowed two hits -- both in the fifth inning. Haley Millard led off with a single, and after Dani Usher hit into a force play, Farr delivered an RBI double.
Both of Parrott's walks and hit batsmen -- Taylor Bonds was the second to get hit and with the bases loaded and two outs -- came in the sixth. Parrott prevented further damage by getting her 12th and final strikeout.
"I thought she shut them down early," Shurette said of Parrott, "but they're a scrappy team. I knew they were not going to lay down. They were going to fight to the end. That's what made me feel good about getting those runs."
Ally Welch went 3-for-3 for Central, and Alexis Grampp and Payton each went 2-for-4. Each had an RBI and a run scored. Scott went 2-for-4 and scored a run, and Lexie Ainslie was 2-for-5.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.