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Central outs Jackson 5-1
POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Central's softball team shook off the rust and beat Jackson 5-1 in the semifinals of the Class 4, District 1 tournament Monday.
The top-seeded Tigers (20-5) hadn't played in 11 days but they'll play again today when Central meets third-seeded Poplar Bluff in the district final. The Mules (16-10) upset second-seeded Hillsboro 9-0 in the other semifinal.
"I think we were focused," Central coach Amy Blattel said. "Jackson did a good job hitting pitches and taking an outside pitch and driving it to the right side."
Fourth-seeded Jackson (7-20) took the first lead of the game in the second inning on a pop fly by Casey Hobeck after Megan Green's leadoff triple. The Indians had six hits in the game but couldn't put together two in an inning.
Central ace Megan McDonald was able to escape two walks in the third and a one-out bases loaded situation in the fifth. The junior struck out nine and was 2-for-4 at the plate.
"We hit the ball well against McDonald, probably the best we've hit against her," Jackson coach Julie Rushing said. "We didn't get a few breaks when we needed them."
The one break the Indians got gave them a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Hobeck's pop fly to the right side of the infield scored Green when Erica Schabbing's throw home hit the umpire, giving Green just enough time to scramble home.
"I knew they could hit but they had to see it for themselves," Rushing said of her team. "When we scored that run our bats started coming alive."
It also seemed to wake up the Tigers, who had runners on second and third with one out in the ensuing frame. Jackson pitcher Elizabeth Nussbaum got out of the jam with a grounder to third and a pop up to first. Nussbaum struck out one and walked four while giving up nine hits in the loss.
Central rallied with two runs in the fourth inning with two outs when junior Megan Kistner beat a throw to first, then later scored on Alex Wieser's bases-loaded single past third. Laura Beard started the inning with a single to left, moved to second on a bunt by Tara Ford, then headed to third when Schabbing fouled off four straight 3-2 pitches before grounding out to second.
"She worked the count really well," Blattel said of Schabbing's at bat. "Any time a batter works the count that well, it always seems as if the batter wins."
Central helped seal the win with an insurance run in the fifth and two more in the seventh. Wieser was 3-for-4 with an RBI while Kistner drove in two runs and was 2-for-4 for the Tigers.
Jackson had a rally going in the fifth down 3-1 when Leslie Palmer started the inning with a double to the gap in left. With one out, Central missed the tag on a fielder's choice while a walk to Kristen Roberts loaded the bases. Schabbing bailed McDonald out of the inning by snaring a line drive off the bat of Kelly Riggs, then doubled off the runner at first to end the threat.
Central, the defending district champion, play Poplar Bluff at 4 p.m. today at McLane Park. It is the first district final for the Mules since 1994. The Tigers won both meetings during the regular season by a combined score of 14-2.
The winner plays at Seckman (25-3) in sectional play Wednesday.