by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Central softball started their run at state this past week, going 3-1 in Section 2AA play.
The Raiders (18-3) opened with a 12-2 six-inning win over Sibley East at home last Tuesday, defeated Belle Plaine, 3-2, at home on Thursday before traveling to Caswell Park for a pair of games Saturday, beating Holy Family Catholic, 8-4, and falling to St. Peter, 2-1.
Central was scheduled to face the winner of a 5 p.m. contest between Belle Plaine and Maple River on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Caswell Park in the losers bracket. Should they win, they would face St. Peter again at Caswell Park on Thursday at 5 p.m. for the trip to state.
Central 12, Sibley East 2
After the Wolverines scored a run, the Raiders jumped all over them in the first inning, plating four runs.
Kaylie Brazil and Kayla Leonhardt opened with walks. With one out, Brooke Willemsen hit a two-run double and later scored on a single by Megan Miller. They would later add another run on an error.
Central would later tack on another run in the second on a RBI single by Natalie Stockman and five more in the third inning, highlighted by a bases loaded triple by Stockman off the right fielder’s glove.
“I knew I had runners on base and knew I had to come up with a hit,” said Stockman.
The throw into the infield then skipped away, allowing Stockman to score giving Central a commanding lead, 9-0.
“I knew I was going to be somewhat close at third so I slid and I popped up and saw the ball go over to the fence and knew I could get home,” she said.
After the Wolverines scored one in their half of the sixth inning, Central scored three runs in the bottom to win in walk-off fashion.
Stockman pitched all seven innings, giving up two runs, four hits and two walks while striking out eight.
“It was a good game to start off with,” she said, “get all our nerves out before the rest of the playoffs because we know we can go far.”
Central 3, Belle Plaine 2
The Raiders battled through a close game in their second playoff game, eventually pulling out the win.
Tracy George put the Raiders on the board with an opposite-field home run over the fence in the second inning for an early lead.
“It was right down the middle and right where I like it,” she said. “I step out of the batting box because I like to take it out to right, but I didn’t think it was going out.”
Central would plate another run in the second inning, taking advantage of an error.
The Tigers scored a run in the fifth inning, beating out several bang-bang plays in the infield, both called in their favor.
“There were some really close plays,” said George. “I thought I got the first one but you know, some times plays don’t get called the way you like them to and you just got to keep going.”
Central added a much-needed insurance run in the sixth inning, as the Tigers scored one run but threatened for more in the seventh.
Stockman pitched the complete game, giving up two runs, six hits and five walks while striking out six.
“She’s always been a strong leader behind us,” said George of Stockman’s performance. “We’ve got a good defense. She trusts in us and she can get the ball across the plate and make the plays and get it taken care of.”
George added that the close win gave her team confidence.
“We’re just going to stay strong keep fighting,” said George. “There’s lots of tough teams ahead of us in the tournament.
Central 8, Holy Family 4
Holy Family opened the game with two runs in the first inning to put the Raiders in an early deficit.
“That was a quick two runs,” said head coach Jon Lambrecht. “That probably woke us up.”
Central put up four runs in their half inning on only one hit.
“I thought we were ready going into that game,” said Lambrecht. “We were pretty amped up.”
Holy Family plated runs in the second and the fifth inning to tie the game at 4-4, but Stockman would come through with a decisive grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning.
“It was a shot,” said Lambrecht. “It cleared the fence by 30, 40 feet. It was just a bomb.”
Offensively, Stockman had two hits, while Brazil, Willemsen, Miller and Brooke Raether each had one,
Stockman threw a complete game, giving up four runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts.
St. Peter 2, Central 1
The Raiders were edged in a tight pitcher’s duel in their fourth game.
“Basically playing for a chance to take a few days off and wait until Thursday,” said Lambrecht. “Maybe we went into it too confident. They weren’t a dominating team, but they weren’t a weak team… Defensively they didn’t make mistakes.”
St. Peter took the early 1-0 lead in the first inning on a double, a bunt and a fielder’s choice.
Central evened the score in the fourth inning by manufacturing a run on a run-scoring single by Miller, but St. Peter scored in the fifth.
“It was just tough,” said Lambrecht, adding they left two runners stranded and third and two at second. “We had opportunities… but we just simply didn’t get the job done. In the playoffs, every single step you take you get better competition, that’s just the nature of it. So if we want to be that elite team, we want to be the best, if we get a runner on second or third, we have to bring them in.”
Stockman pitched the complete game, giving up one earned run, four hits and two walks while striking out five.
Central had a total of six hits off Carolyn Conlin.
“It wasn’t a huge offensive game at all,” he said. “She did a good job getting ahead and not giving our hitters a lot to hit. Nonetheless, six hits and we didn’t do much with them.”
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]