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Central softball upends Jackson to reach district final
The Central softball team entered district play focused on being able to take a hit.
"We've been talking about counter-punching," Central coach Amy Blattel said. "You're going to get into this tournament and teams are going to put runs across the plate. You've just got to be ready to counter-punch them, and they've done that."
The Tigers actually landed the first punch Thursday against Jackson and had a ample answer to each of the Indians' attacks in a 13-6 upset victory.
Central, the bottom seed in the sixth-team district, will face No. 1 seed Farmington in the championship game at 11 a.m Saturday on Jackson's home field.
"Our seed I think got us fired up the most in this tournament," Central pitcher Kadie Orenstein said. "When the underdog comes out of nowhere and hits the bats, it can surprise people, and it takes them off guard. We were definitely capable of doing what we did yesterday and today."
The Tigers upset No. 3 seed Hillsboro 10-5 on Wednesday.
"The belief they have in themselves right now, I think, is a really big key," Blattel said. "And the confidence they haven in themselves is a really big key."
Orenstein gave Central a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning with a double to center field. The ball was just out of the reach of streaking Jackson center fielder Demesha Hudleston.
"I was watching," Orenstein said. "I knew their center fielder had wheels, so it's always kind of gutsy on that one, but as soon as I saw it down I was taking off."
Jackson had a chance to take the lead a half-inning earlier, but Central shortstop Mashanda Reed threw out a runner at the plate for the second out of the inning.
"Just aggressiveness," Jackson coach Amanda Forester said. "We've talked about being more aggressive on the bases all year. She made a great play, and sometimes it works out in your favor, and sometimes it doesn't."
Reed charged the slow-rolling grounder, got to it just after in crept past Orenstein and made an accurate throw to the plate.
"She played a great defensive game the entire night," Blattel said. "That's huge. You let a team put runs across the plate before you do -- now you feel a little more pressure. That play was a very big play."
Jackson cut the lead to 2-1 on Mollie Crader's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third, but Orenstein struck out the side in the fourth before her team landed the biggest blow of the night.
Central sent 12 batters to the plate in the top of the fifth. The Tigers scored eight times on six hits and chased Jackson starter Mallory Jones in the process.
"They're great hitters," Forester said. "I'll give them that. [Jones] has been dealing with some back problems, but not to put that aside to anything that they have. They're a good hitting team. They're always putting it in play.
"The first game we beat them 4-3, but they still hit, hit, hit, hit, hit. They brought it tonight. They were ready to play. They came off a big win yesterday, a lot of momentum coming into tonight."
Remarkably, all 13 runs scored by Central came with two outs.
"Two-out hits stick out," Blattel said. "Our kids came up, and since districts have began, they've really believed that they can do this. They've been nipping away at it all season long, and I'm just really proud of the performance up and down the lineup. We haven't played perfect games, but if we've made a mistake, we've picked ourselves up."
Jackson scored three times in the bottom of the fifth and twice more in the sixth, but Central got the reply it wanted by adding three runs in the seventh inning.
"Our thing was, ‘Hold the rope,'" Orenstein said. "We knew that's what we had to do. We had the lead, but we were not backing down because we knew they were going to punch and punch, and we just had to counterpunch right back."
Orenstein earned her second win in as many days with a complete-game effort. She was 2 for 3 with two walks and four RBIs at the plate.
"Very gutsy," Blattel said about Orenstein's performance in the circle. "There's a lot of pressure on a pitcher, especially in this situation. And I think a really big compliment to her is that when they started to put a couple runs across the plate, she didn't try to overthrow."
The softball team will try to replicate the Central baseball team's unexpected run this past spring to a district title Saturday.
Like the baseball team, the softball team is seeded sixth, and just as it was for the baseball team, top-seeded Farmington awaits in the title game.
The baseball team beat the Knights 10-3 before eventually advancing to the state quarterfinals.
"Our softball team has talked about it and the fact that our season somewhat mirrors the baseball season last year," Blattel said. "We've used that as motivation because we've had a lot of games where we have lost by one run and have been right there, a play or two.
"I can't say enough about these kids. We've talked about it all season long, about having that belief and knowing that we have the talent to do what we want and that it didn't matter where we were seeded in the district tournament as long as we believed. And they get it. They get it."
Central 002 080 3 -- 13 15 1
Jackson 001 032 0 -- 6 8 5
WP -- Kadie Orenstein. LP -- Mallory Jones. 3B -- Sarah Kitchen (C). 2B -- Casey Holzum (J), Brooke Whitledge (J), Taylor Bauknecht (J), Orenstein (C). Multiple hits -- Jackson: Holzum 2-4, Whitledge 2-4, Bauknecht 3-3; Central: Madison Daum 2-3, Orenstein 2-3, S. Kitchen 2-4, Brooke Anderson 2-5, Rebecca Kitchen 2-5, Mariah Taylor 2-5, Tatiana Reagan 2-3. Records -- Jackson 11-7, Central 9-12.