Central girls prepare for second half of season

By Mark Clark

Central High coach Mitchell Holt had some words of wisdom to impart to his players recently.

“The first half is done. It doesn’t matter anymore. You may have had a great first half, but the only thing that matters, and that will be remembered, is how you finish,” Holt said to his players after they completed their games in the Gulf Coast Classic II in Gulf Shores.

The Central Lady Red Devils went 3-3 in the tournament and played a slate of teams that helped fill the winners’ bracket semifinals – De Queen (Ark) High, Hatton High, Sumiton Christian and Prattville. The Lady Red Devils also played Friendship Christian, a runner-up in Tennessee last season. Sumiton Christian went on to win the tournament’s championship game.

“We played a tough schedule in the tournament. Overall, I thought we had a good week. We just did not win as many games as we would have liked to win. We never got going offensively. We had two or three girls that had a good week at the plate. Against some teams, that’s enough to win, but not against the teams we played in the tournament. They were the kind of teams that we will have to beat to get where we want to go,” Holt said.

Central was 18-10 as they began this week’s schedule of games. The Lady Red Devils will be on the road today to play at Marbury. After that, Central will head to Auburn University to play Wetumpka High next Wednesday at 5:30. Holt is hoping for a big crowd of supporters at the game.

“This is a big opportunity for the girls. They get to play on the same field as the Auburn women’s softball team. I would love to see as many fans as possible turn out to support us,” Holt said.

Admission for the contest is $8 for adults and $5 for students.

All three of Central’s victories in the tournament were games in which Gracie Deaton was inside the circle. She ended the tournament with a 3-1 record, giving her a 16-4 record for the season for the 18-10 team.

“Gracie has really carried us so far this season. We came into the season with two pitchers we considered as No. 1 pitchers. Alexa Shiver has battled a nagging injury that has kept her out of the circle. She has offered to pitch if needed, but she understands the big picture is that we will need her late in the season. Gracie has exceeded expectations thus far. We couldn’t ask for much more out of her. Every time she has pitched, she has given us a chance to win the game and that is all you can ask,” Holt said.

“We brought up some junior varsity and junior high pitchers in order to give Gracie some rest. They began to figure things out a little earlier than we would have liked for them to have to. They found out the differences between the levels of play quickly. They handled it well and understand at the varsity level mistakes are usually hit very hard. You have to learn to locate pitches. It’s all part of the maturing as a pitcher. The success and struggles they go through right now will make them better in the long run.”

Deaton was the winning pitcher in Central’s opening game in the Gulf Coast Classic II over Friendship Christian. She went the distance, allowed seven hits, four runs and struck out one as her team won 9-4. 

Kristen White was 2-for-3 to lead Central at the plate. Allie Farrow, Allison Shiver, Kyleigh McHargue, Alexa Shiver and Jadia Jones were all 1-for-2. Shelby Newsome, Sara Castillo and Deaton were each 1-for-1. Castillo had a triple and Allison Shiver had a double.

Central went down 4-0 in the top of the first inning, but rallied for five runs in the bottom of the inning to lead 5-4. They were never headed again. Central added four more runs in the second inning.

De Queen defeated Central 13-2 in the second game of the tournament for the Lady Red Devils. Castillo was 2-for-2 with a double and one RBI. Farrow was 1-for-1 and McHargue was 1-for-2 with one RBI.

In their third game, the Lady Red Devils beat Hatton, the No. 1 ranked team in Class 2A, 4-2. Deaton went five innings, allowed four hits, two runs, no earned runs and struck out three. Newsome was 2-for-3 to lead Central at the plate. Farrow was 2-for-5 with three RBI. Deaton was 1-for-1. Alexa Shiver and White were both 1-for-2.

Because the game was tied and because of a time limit, the two teams turned to the International tie-breaker rule to determine the winner. Jadia Jones was placed on second base to begin the inning for Central. White walked and then she and Jones stole second and third bases. Farrow singled to drive in both. Hatton did not score in the bottom of the inning and Central won 4-3.

Central followed the win with a loss to the eventual tournament champion Sumiton Christian, ranked No. 1 in Class 1A. Sumiton Christian beat Central 9-0 and did not allow a Lady Red Devil hit.

Central had to play Hatton a second time and won 2-1. Deaton was the winning pitcher, allowing four hits, one unearned run and struck out three. Castillo, White and Farrow were each 1-for-2. Castillo had a triple and one RBI.

With the score tied at 0-0 in the fourth inning, Farrow singled and moved from first base to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Newsome. Farrow then stole home to give Central a 1-0 lead. The Lady Red Devils added another run when McHargue, who reached base on an error, scored on a triple by Castillo.

In their final game of the tournament, Central lost 2-1 to Prattville. Deaton took the pitching loss, allowing seven hits, two runs and striking out three. Newsome, Castillo, and Alexa Shiver were each 1-for-2. White was 1-for-3. Newsome had a double and Castillo had one RBI.

Down 1-0 in the top of the fourth inning, Newsome doubled and scored on a single by Castillo to tie the game at 1-1. Prattville scored the winning run in the bottom of the fifth inning.