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Central falls to Northwest 5-4 in softball playoff game
CEDAR HILL, Mo. -- Northwest senior Abby Askins had a message for her teammates after they missed a opportunity to overtake Central in the sixth inning of a Class 4 softball sectional Wednesday.
"She said, ‘Nothing ever comes easy for Northwest,'" sophomore Rachel Jones said.
And nothing did against Central.
The Lions were down to their final out before they rallied for a 5-4 victory on their home field.
Jones, the No. 8 batter in Northwest's lineup, doubled home the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh inning.
"It was great. It was amazing," said Jones, whose team advanced to the sectional with a 14-inning win a day earlier.
Central took a 4-3 lead into the final inning. Junior pitcher Kadie Orenstein retired the first two Northwest batters in the inning before walking freshman Abbie Stahlman.
The next two batters recorded RBI hits to give the Lions the lead.
"I'm going to give Northwest credit," Central coach Amy Blattel said. "They came out, and they got hits when they needed to get hits. We knew coming out in this type of a game that no team's going to go down.
"They all want to win. They're all going for the same thing, so I'm going to give them credit. They got hits when they needed to get hits."
That wasn't the case an inning earlier when Central made a remarkable escape that looked for a while like it would save the Tigers' season.
Like the seventh-inning rally, it started when Orenstein walked Stahlman -- this time to lead off the half-inning.
The next two batters bunted and reached base on infield errors, which prompted a visit to the circle by Blattel.
"She told us to keep our heads and play defense like she knows we can and like we know we can," Orenstein said.
Northwest's Lindsay Baumgarth then singled home a run, but that would be the only one the Lions scored.
Central shortstop Mashanda Reed and third baseman Tatiana Reagan threw out runners at the plate on back-to-back plays before Orenstein got No. 3 hitter Taylor Fortner, who had doubled home two runs in her previous at-bat, to pop out to end the inning.
"That was huge," Blattel said. "They put the ball in play, and we got out of the inning. I was really proud of the girls because that was an opportunity right there. It could go either way, and our kids decided to take it as a challenge. And I thought they did great."
Orenstein allowed just three hits through the first four innings before giving up six hits and all five Northwest runs over the final three innings. She struck out seven batters and walked three.
Orenstein, who was 2 for 3 at the plate, singled with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning but was thrown out trying to steal second and no other Central batter reached.
"There was not a steal on," Blattel said. "She was just trying to be aggressive."
Orenstein seemed lost for words when trying to describe the play and mentioned the sun, which was low in the final innings and shining in the eyes of the infielders, all of whom were routinely shading their eyes between plays.
"It's just one of those tough games," Orenstein said. "It was just a situation. I knew the sun was there. I don't know."
Central took a 2-0 lead in the third inning. Orenstein drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and catcher Sarah Kitchen singled in a run.
"That was complete execution that inning, so I was really proud of the girls," Blattel said. "We got runners on, advanced them and then Kadie did exactly what she should do, which she hit a line drive. They were playing deep. Then Sarah came in after her and did exactly what she's been doing."
Central added an unearned run in the fourth inning and another in the fifth on freshman first baseman Brooke Anderson's single.
"She has a good head on her shoulders, and she does not take previous at-bats into the current at-bat, which is huge," Blattel said. "I was really proud of her. She's had a tremendous postseason."
The Tigers finished 11-13 and won their first district title since 2004 with two freshmen, three sophomore and two juniors in the lineup.
"The young kids, honestly, they just -- they have to be hungry for more now, and they can't be satisfied with what they've done," Blattel said. "It's going to be showing up to off-season stuff and playing in the summer and keeping that hunger going. They've got to remember this feeling, and remember they don't want it again."
WP -- Alicia Pingleton. LP -- Kadie Orenstein. 2B -- Taylor Fortner (N), Rachel Jones (N). Multiple hits -- Northwest: Abby Askins 2-4, Lindsay Baumgarth 3-4; Central: Orenstein 2-3, Sarah Kitchen 2-4. Records -- Northwest 15-11, Central 11-13.