By Trent Friedel, Exclusive to the Times
Natchitoches Central Lady Chiefs entered the playoff picture as the #9 seed with a 21-8 record and holding the District 1-5A title, their first since 1994. Their competition was 14-14 Denham Springs sitting at #24. Maddie Robinson was on the mound for the Lady Chiefs and retired the side in the first inning with a line out to first, a ground out that she handled and a strike out.
With two out in the bottom of the first, Natchitoches Central’s Lindsey Hargis hits a hard grounder to the SS who had a hard time handling it and the runner is safe. Robinson doubles up the middle and that puts two runners in scoring position. Morgan Dawson follows with a hard hit of her own up the middle which scores two.
Dawson is stranded on base at the end of the inning and the Lady Chiefs lead 2-0. Richardson leads off the second for the Lady Yellow Jackets but gets called out at first for leaving the base while the pitcher is in the circle. That is followed by a ground out and fly out to retire the side. Bevill reaches base on a solid hit, a single past first base. The rest of the Lady Chiefs go down in order, ground out, strike out, ground out.
Top of third, Vicknair is at bat for the Lady Yellow Jackets and gets on base with a single. Redmond lays down what should have been a sacrifice bunt but reaches on error by Robinson. Robinson gets the next batter. Two on and one out when Harris singles up the middle for the Yellow Jackets scoring two and tying the score at two.
The next two batters ground out to end the inning and one runner is stranded but the score is tied. Catherine (Cat) Stokes leads off the bottom third for the Lady Chiefs and barrels up on a pitch and sends it sailing to the top of the wall in left field for the homer. The home run is her first of the season and it recaptures some momentum for the Lady Chiefs in the game. Hargis and Robinson follow with outs before Dawson singles and Spillman reaches base on balls. With two on and two outs though, the Lady Chief’s are retired when Bevill goes down swinging.
Robinson still on the mound gives up a single and a walk. The next batter lays down a perfect sac bunt and Denham Springs has runners on second and third with one out. The Yellow Jacket pitcher, Vicknair, grounds out to second but one run scores and the game is tied again at three with two outs. Robinson strikes out the next batter, but the game is an exciting back and forth contest.
The Lady Chiefs go down in order in the bottom of the fourth. The fifth inning starts with Stokes grounding out to the second baseman. Hargis singles then Robinson doubles on a rip hit to left field down the third base line. Dawson grounds into a fielder’s choice, the first baseman elects to try and make a play at the plate but Hargis scores and Dawson is safe at first. Spillman grounds out and the runners advance.
With two out, the Lady Chiefs take advantage of back-to-back Lady Yellow Jacket errors and score two more runs in the inning. With the lead going into the sixth, Robinson really settles in and paints the strike zone retiring the side in order. Hargis would score in the bottom of the frame on an RBI single by Dawson and the Lady Chiefs pull out to an 8-3 lead. Denham Springs is sent packing three up three down in the seventh and the Lady Chief’s advance to round two to face Central of Baton Rouge. Dawson went three for four at the plate and had four RBIs in the victory.
Robinson gets the win on the mounds and struck out five.
Coach Abels was very proud of the girls and said of the win, “It was tight for a while, but Maddie turned it on late. Once we had the lead she settled in and we were productive at the plate. I am super proud, and we survive to move on. They have worked hard for this.”
Cat Stokes about the home run, “She hung an inside pitch and I connected on it, I was excited.”
Robinson improved to 13-4 for the season and said, “I had good control of my curve ball and fast ball and settled down as the game progressed.”
Dawson on the win and plate productivity going 3 for 4, “I was just trying to help my teammates score. I’m so proud.”
The Lady Chiefs should be proud and will play Wednesday on the road.