The Lady Lions busted out 13 hits and struck out just once in the 11-3 region road win, earning victory No. 20 on the season and providing some positive momentum heading into the postseason.
“Yeah, just a lot of little things like that. And there’s a lot of games that could have gone either way, too. To finish 20-7, to finish like that — finish as the one seed going into the tournament — it’s exactly where you want to be,” Central coach Jimmy LeBlanc said.
The No. 6 Lady Lions (20-7, 9-1 Region 5-AA) actually finished in a tie with Rockmart in the sub-region standings, but Central won the tie-breaker on run differential, meaning it’ll play host to the Region 4-AAA Tournament as long as it keeps winning. LeBlanc said he expects to be hosting Jackson of Atlanta in the first round on Monday.
On Tuesday, Central scored three runs in the top of the first on five hits, then tacked on two more runs in the second before the Rebelettes (6-18, 3-7) got on the board courtesy of an RBI double from Savannah Gray in the bottom of the frame. HC pulled within 6-3 on a two-run double by Savannah McKinzey in the bottom of the fourth, but the Lady Lions got single runs in the fifth and sixth and three more in the seventh to put the game out of reach.
“They’re a hard-hitting team. You know, Central does a good job. Their pitcher did a very good job, and their hitters hit it hard and hit it in the holes,” Rebelette coach Lisa Warren said. “It’s hard to defend that type of offense.”
Central had four players record multiple-hit efforts, with Alison Jiles continuing to serve as the team’s RBI machine at the plate.
The senior catcher went 2-for-3 with a double, walk, sacrifice fly and four RBI in the win — pushing her grand total to 43 runs driven in on the season.
“Ah, just amazing. Isn’t it? And there are a lot of opportunities for more. I mean, she came up that time with the bases loaded and good lord, if she would had straightened that one out, that was a long way,” LeBlanc said of Jiles’ deep shot that flew foul of the left-field fence with the bases juiced in the seventh inning.
“But she’s just got a good approach at the plate. I’m very excited about the way she’s leading us behind the plate, too. She’s doing a heck of a job calling the game. She communicates well with her teammates. She’s real positive with her teammates.”
Along with Jiles’ productive day at the plate, Hayley Sims (3-for-5, run), Cassie Griffin (2-for-3, 2 HBP, SB, 3 runs, 2 RBI) and Cade North (2-for-4) also had solid efforts for Central.
Sophomore right-hander Taylor Funk earned the win in the circle, working a complete-game six-hitter, yielding three runs with one walk and 10 punchouts.
For the Rebelettes, Gray (2-for-3, 2B, run, RBI), Lindsey Rutherford (2-for-3, 2B, 2 runs) and McKinzey (1-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI) led the offense, something Warren is hopeful will pick up when they open the Region 4-AAA Tournament on Monday at Chapel Hill, the No. 1 seed from 4A-AAA.
“We’re struggling. We’ve been struggling all year. We scored a few runs [Monday] in a non-region game, we scored a few [Tuesday]. I don’t know if we’re starting to put something together right at the end, but that’s sort of been a problem for us all year,” Warren said of the offensive production.
Tuesday marked Senior Night for the Rebelettes, who honored Rutherford, McKinzey and Tara Cobb in their final home games at HC.
And with the first goal now taken care of, LeBlanc and the Lady Lions are preparing for the next step — a Region 4-AAA Tournament title and earning the No. 1 seed for the upcoming Class AAA state tournament.
“Nothing easy. You’ve got Callaway and Haralson, who have both competed with everybody all year. Their records may not indicate it quite as well, but they’ve competed. Then you’ve got a solid Chapel Hill and a solid Rockmart. Rockmart is as good as anybody around,” LeBlanc said. “So there’s a long road to hoe. As long as we continue to win, I think we’ll have home-field advantage in the tournament. As long as we’re winning, it will be played at our place.”