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Central softball team seizes shot at district title
Central earned the chance to repeat as district champs with a 4-2 win over Jackson
The top-seeded Central Tigers were able to get on the board early in their district semifinal matchup against fifth-seeded Jackson when Madison Daum hit a leadoff triple and eventually was driven in by Kadie Orenstein on a fielder's choice in the bottom of the first inning.
Central led until the Indians tied it in the top of the fourth, but the difference came down to one seized and one missed opportunity in the fifth and sixth innings.
It was the Tigers who made the most of their chance as they defeated Jackson 4-2 in a Class 4 District 1 softball semifinal Thursday at Central.
"Well, we knew coming in Jackson was hot," Central coach Amy Blattel said. "They were playing very, very well and they're a much better ball club than their record shows and we have a lot of respect for them and their coaching staff. So we knew it was going to be a battle and we knew we were going to have to play hard the whole game."
Central's lead against the Indians never exceeded three runs, but the Tigers had other opportunities to pull away.
"Honestly, I thought we came in and we played the best team in this district right now," Jackson coach Ashley Litzelfelner said. "We always bring it whenever we come play Cape. It's always a battle. We gave all we could, and they pushed us to our limits. They outhit us today, and that's what won the ballgame."
Central catcher Sarah Kitchen made crucial plays offensively and defensively to help the Tigers secure the victory. With two outs and two runners on in the fifth inning Kitchen doubled to center field to give the Tigers a 4-1 lead.
"I saw runners on and knew I had to relax up at the plate and drive the ball," Kitchen said.
Kitchen threw a Jackson runner out at second on an attempted steal to record the first out of the sixth inning and clear the bases.
Jackson's Mallorie Maintz singled later in the inning before two consecutive errors by Central allowed her to score to cut the lead to 4-2.
Central pitcher Kadie Orenstein's lone walk of the game loaded the bases, but she struck out a batter to end the threat.
"The only thing that was going through my head was, 'Let's do this,' Litzelfelner said. "Hoping and praying that we could get something to push our girls forward, and we got the bases loaded and just couldn't produce."
Central will try to defend its district title when it faces Hillsboro in the district championship at 11 a.m. Saturday at Central.
The Tigers beat Hillsboro 8-6 earlier in the season.
"It's going to be tough," Blattel said. "When you get down to it, those games prior to a district championship really don't mean a whole lot because both teams are different. We saw them very early in the year. ... It's going to be a battle. We're going to have to play ball the way we're capable of playing ball."
Central improved to 16-5, while Jackson's season ended at 10-15.
"This was a good win for us today, but we've got to put this one behind us and come out and do work tomorrow in practice," Orenstein said. "We know we've got to take care of business on Saturday. We still have a lot of work to do."
WP -- Kadie Orenstein. LP -- Sophie Wunderlich. Leading hitters -- Central: Sarah Kitchen 3-3, 2 2B, 2 RBI; Maddie Daum 3-3, 3B; Sydney Tollison 2-3, 2B. Jackson: Erica Gray 1-3, 2B, 1 RBI; Taylor Bauknecht 2-4. Records -- Central 16-5, Jackson 10-15.