MARTINSBURG - The Central softball team ended the regular season with two straight losses. A third would have meant an early exit from the District 6
Class AA playoffs.
The team had different plans, however. The Lady Dragons topped Forest Hills in the opening round of district playoffs 8-2 Thursday at Central High School to extend their season.
Fifth-seeded Central plays at Penn Cambria Monday in the quarterfinals. Penn Cambria, the fourth seed, defeated Blairsville Thursday by an identical 8-2 score.
Kylie Gunnett pitched five innings of shutout ball before giving up two runs in the sixth. By that time, Central had already built an 8-0 lead.
Gunnett finished with seven strikeouts, and the defense backed her up with error-free ball.
"As a whole, that's been one of the stronger parts of our game all year," Central coach Dale Walters said of the team defense. "Kylie did a nice job, but she made one bad pitch that cost us two runs. That can't happen against the better teams."
Ashley Smith and Paige Mock led the offense with three hits apiece. Taylor McKnight had two hits and scored two runs.
Central took advantage of Forest Hills' poor defense in the third and fourth innings.
After grabbing a 1-0 lead on a Kate Blattenberger sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first, the Lady Dragons scored three runs in both the third and fourth. Four hits combined with four errors accounted for the six runs.
"We struggled on defense and dug ourselves a big hole," Forest Hills coach Pearl Pcola said. "They made the plays, and we didn't. This time of year you make the plays, or you go home."
McKnight led off the third with a single, and Blattenberger reached on an error. When Gunnett laid down a bunt to advance the runners, an error on first baseman Morgan McCormick allowed both McKnight and Blattenberger to score, and Gunnett ended up on second base.
Janine Snyder brought home Gunnett with a single to centerfield.
The fourth inning was nearly an instant replay of the third. Smith led off with a single and came around to score when leftfielder Haleigh McCall misplayed a line drive off the bat of McKnight.
After Blattenberger walked, another Forest Hills error allowed McKnight and Blattenberger to score.
"We're a good team. We have everything. We can hit, pitch and play defense, but we played like a bundle of nerves," Walters said. "We're as good as anyone in Class AA. We just have to play like it. We've got to believe in ourselves."
SCORE BY INNINGS
Forest Hills000 020 0-2 8 5
Central103 310 x-8 12 0
2B-Blanchetti, Gould (FH). Multiple hits-Gould 2, Bodenschatz 2 (FH); Garman 2, Smith 3, McKnight 2, Mock 3 (C). RBI-Blanchetti 2 (FH); Garman, Blattenberger, J. Snyder. WP-Gunnett. LP-Makin. SO-Makin 1, Gunnett 7. BB-Makin 3, Gunnett 2.
Records: Forest Hills (9-9); Central (15-5).