By MICHELLE GARMON
DALEVILLE — Tri-Central’s varsity softball team had waited all season to put together a complete performance. The Trojans could not have picked a better game for it to happen.
Tri-Central got off to a hot start and never let off the gas hammering the host Broncos to the tune of a 21-5, five-inning victory in Tuesday night’s second semifinal game of the Class A Daleville Sectional. The win earned the Trojans a spot in Thursday’s 5:30 p.m. championship game against Cowan, who defeated Wes-Del in Tuesday’s first semifinal.
“The bus ride over set the whole tone for tonight’s HUGE victory,” Tri-Central coach Lindsey Sorensen said. “The girls just had a different energy about them. They came to play. We talked about taking advantage of every opportunity given to us and walking off the field at the end of the game knowing we gave it everything we had. They did just that.”
The Trojans got a strong performance from Autumn Hurt in the pitching circle and at the plate. Hurt pitched a five hitter, while getting on base in all five plate appearances and driving in a team-high sixth runs. The defense played solid behind her, and TC’s bats were blistering. The Trojans recorded 21 hits to match their 21 runs. Maiya Owen had the biggest hit of the night for TC as she slugged a three-run home run in the second inning. She also a pair of RBI singles in TC’s 12-run fifth inning.
“Tonight, we played to our potential and good things happened,” Sorensen said. “We’ve talked all year about putting the ball in play to make the defense make plays. Tonight, we did that, and we were smart on the bases. I’m really proud of our girls and the way they played tonight.”
Tri-Central set the tone in the top of the first as Madison Neff led off the game with a base hit. Gracie Grimes followed with a double and Hurt blooped an RBI single to left-center field. Adeline Taylor followed with a two-run single to give the Trojans a 3-0 lead before they had an out. TC was limited to those three runs in the top of the first.
Hurt gave up a leadoff single in the bottom of the first but then retired the next three batters.
The Trojans went back to work on offense in the top of the second inning tacking on five more runs. Layla Keith got it started with a leadoff single. Neff followed with her second hit of the night. Grimes then lined the ball off the shortstop’s glove. As the ball rolled into left field, Keith scored on the play. Hurt followed with an RBI single. One out later, Owen hammered the ball over the fence in left-center to score three runs and extend TC’s lead to 8-0.
Hurt gave up a one-out walk in the bottom of the second but retired the other three batters she faced. The Trojan sophomore pitcher also got a great sliding catch of a foul ball near the TC dugout by first baseman Kiley Kinney to end the inning.
TC went down in order in the top of the third – the only inning the Trojans did not have a base runner or score a run. The Broncos, meanwhile, did get on the board in the bottom of third on an RBI double. But the Trojans got the run back top of the fourth. TC had runners at the corners with one out when Kinney laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to score Hurt from third base and put the Trojans up 9-1.
Tri-Central then broke the game open with a 12-run explosion in the top of the fifth. The Trojans sent 17 hitters to the plate in the inning and recorded 10 hits and took advantage of five Dalelville errors. Grimes had a two-run single, Owens had the two RBI singles, while Hurt drilled a three-run double down the third-base line. Neff had an RBI fielder’s choice and Alexus Mackey also had an RBI as TC upped its lead to 21-1.
The Daleville managed to score four runs in the bottom of the fifth. The runs came via a stolen base, an RBI fielder’s choice, and a two-run single.
Hurt pitched all five innings for the Trojans, allowing five runs on five hits. She walked two and hit a batter, while striking out four. She helped herself at the plate as well as she slugged the double and had three base hits, while driving in a team-high six runs.
“Autumn threw a fantastic game tonight,” Sorensen said. “She’s a competitor. She has really found a groove here late in the season. She also helped herself offensively.”
Owen homered, singled twice, and drove in five runs. Grimes doubled, singled twice, and recorded two RBI, while Taylor had three singles and two RBI. Neff and Mackey also had two singles each for the Trojans.
“Taylor has been solid behind the plate all year for us and tonight, was no different,” the TC coach said. “She controls the game well and held their baserunners accountable. In the fourth, Kiley Kinney executed a squeeze beautifully to score Hurt as an insurance run. Miaya Owen picked up her second home run of the season.
“Layla Keith snagged a big out in the bottom of the seventh. She is a freshman who has stepped up and played an incredible centerfield for us this year. Grimes and Neff took care of everything on the left side of the field tonight, and also hit the ball well.”