With the win, the No. 6 Lady Lions (19-7, 7-1 Region 4-AAA) only need to defeat Haralson County next Tuesday to win the 4B-AAA sub-region, finish with the No. 1 overall seed and host the region tournament.
The game wasn’t as clean as Central coach Jimmy LeBlanc would have liked Thursday, as the Lady Cavaliers (13-12, 4-4) scored a pair of runs in the second and added another in the third to take an early 3-0 lead.
But with a resilient group, the Lady Lions found a way to get themselves back in the game.
“That’s the positive you take away from that. Down the road, you make positives out of those things like [Wednesday] and [Thursday] that you can carry into your tournament — region and, hopefully, state tournament,” LeBlanc said.
In the bottom of the fifth, Central got itself on the board when Logan Wood reached on an error to start the inning and advanced to third on Hayley Sims’ single. The throw to try and get Wood at third went into the dugout, allowing her to score and make it a 3-1 game.
The Lady Lions kept the pressure going in the sixth, as seven straight batters reached base, with Jordyn Scott and Taylor Funk hitting back-to-back, one-out singles and Cade North drove Scott home with a third single in a row — then another Callaway error brought Funk home and allowed North to move to third. Following a fielder’s choice, Wood singled to move Chambers to third and advanced to second on the throw, setting the table for Aubrey Bennett.
With the game tied, Bennett’s opposite-field triple down the right-field line brought home a pair of runs and gave the Lady Lions the lead for good. Central got an insurance run on Sims’ second hit in as many innings to score Bennett and go up 6-3.
The Lady Cavs got a run back in the seventh, but Funk worked out of a bases-loaded jam to preserve the win.
“[The Callaway coach] was on them a little bit because of the way things turned out at the end, but I thought we hit the ball better right there at the end. We put the ball in play, ran the bases and made them make some throws,” LeBlanc said.
Funk earned the win in the circle, throwing all seven innings, giving up four runs on six hits with 10 strikeouts and four walks. Offensively, it was Bennett coming through with the big hit, as Sims, Scott and Funk each had two-hit performances.
But the night was about the pair of seniors on the Central roster — Alison Jiles and Shena Chambers.
“Both of them are special in their own way. You look at Alison and she’s been special because of the four years of varsity service and the four years behind the plate and just the stability she brings and the maturity in so many ways,” LeBlanc said. “Shena’s a kid that had a lot of girls in front of her and just worked hard, waited for her turn and she’s had a great year this year. She’s naturally almost like the big sister. She’s waited her time and has done such a good job for us in whatever level of the program she’s been in.”
Now the Lady Lions have one final test before the region tournament, as they travel to Haralson County on Tuesday for a 5:30 first pitch on the Rebelettes’ Senior Night.
“Haralson County is going to be tough on Senior Night up at their place,” LeBlanc said. “We need to win that game. We looked at the tie-breaker and we think it will be the same until it goes down to when we played [Rockmart]. They beat us by one and we beat them by three, so that would be a plus-two for us.”
In other prep softball action from Thursday:
Carrollton 18, Sandy Creek 0 (4 innings): The Lady Trojans (21-5, 6-1 Region 5-AAAA) made quick work in Tyrone, getting the combined shutout from Randi Phillips and Katie Jones in the circle, with Phillips tossing two innings of hitless ball for the win, while Jones allowed one hit in two innings.
Offensively, Brooklyn Emory (3-for-4), Savannah Nalley (2-for-2) and Phillips (2-for-3) all had multiple-hit efforts, while Maime Crawford, Courtney Nield and Leigh Anne Turner had one hit apiece.
Carrollton plays host to Fayette County on Monday at 5:55 p.m. and then travels to Alexander on Tuesday to wrap up the regular season.
Central Middle School 10, Bowdon 2: Emily Williams and Logan North combined on a one-hitter for the Lady Lions (5-0), while Kayla Sales delivered the big shot at the plate with a bases-clearing triple.
Faith Bennett, Kaylee Karakos, Payton Groves, Jonni Cook and Williams also had hits for Central.
Carrollton 2, Haralson County 1: The Lady Trojans overcame a 25-20 setback in the opening game with 25-7 and 25-23 triumphs for the win over the Rebelettes at Temple on Thursday night.
“That one was a really tight game. We had some key service points by Mary Kate Groninger and Anna Humphrey. Then Olivia Huffman saved us several times with some digs defensively and Hannah Baldizon, Kat Burger and Simone Richardson had some big plays on the net. Our outside hitters were also vital on the front and back row,” noted Carrollton coach Kasey Austin.
Carrollton 2, Temple 0: The Lady Trojans eased past the Lady Tigers, 25-9 and 25-12, in their other match Thursday.