Central won a pitchers' duel Thursday. Or more precisely, won a defensive duel.
Red Bank matched the host Lady Purple Pounders for five scoreless innings, but the Lionettes' defense unraveled in the sixth with three errors contributing to all unearned runs and Central won the high school softball game between District 6-AA unbeatens 3-0.
With two league games remaining, Central (17-7, 4-0) is now in control of capturing the regular-season title and the accompanying top seeding for the district tournament.
The bottom of the sixth began with winning pitcher Brooke Parrott reaching on an error. After she stole second, Kerri Sylvester lined a single to center field. The hit was bobbled, enabling Parrott to score.
A throwing error on Mikayla Gill's sacrifice bunt allowed another run to score and left her at third. She scored on Kayla Henderson's infield single.
"Red Bank always has a good team," Central coach LeeAnne Shurette said. "They're a good hitting team, and a good defensive team. We were just trying to wreak havoc with our last bat. We played a little small ball, trying to make something happen."
Although Hannah Wood was the losing pitcher, the only hits she allowed through the first five innings was Parrott's bunt single starting the bottom of the first. She walked two, one advancing as far as third, and had four strikeouts.
"I just told her, 'You pitched a game to win. We just let you down,'" Red Bank coach Mandi Munn said. "It's a team sport. It takes everybody, 100 percent of the time. You can't have lapses. You've got to stay focused."
Meanwhile, Parrott overpowered Red Bank (14-6, 4-1) the first time through the batting order on the way to matching Wood's three-hitter. She hit one batter and struck out 14.
"She mowed down nine straight," Munn said of the start to Parrott's outing. "You can't take that away from her. She was doing her job. We made some adjustments after the first nine."
Destiny Painter, Wood and Kendall Farr were the first three Lionettes to put the ball in play, and all reached base safely in the fourth, with Painter and Farr having singles. But Parrott got a groundout with the bases loaded and two out to escape trouble.
"I thought she threw really well," Shurette said. "She keeps us in games. I would've liked for our bats to have come alive before the sixth inning. Hannah pitched well. I'm not taking anything away from her. But we kept going up there doing the same things."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter @KelleySmiddie.