TC Central defeats Loachapoka to advance
by Erich Hilkert
TROY—After four innings of play both pitchers in the TC Central-Loachapoka game had no-hitters, but the score was 16-9. The final score of 24-18 resembled a football game more than a softball game, but in the end, TC Central prevailed to live another day.

“They were persistent,” head coach Crystal Gooden said. “They didn’t give up. They came back and held the other girls.”

Gooden knows her team made a lot of mistakes, but feels they can learn from those mistakes in order to improve moving forward.

“What they take away from it is working on errors, just watching errors, not throwing the ball away, getting the ball back to the pitcher, things of that nature. I think part of it was the fact that our catcher was tired and a lot of their points were steals, getting past the catcher,” Gooden said following the team’s victory. “We kind of found what the problem was and fixed it. The girls—we usually talk about it and they’ll tell me exactly what errors they were making. So, we’ll just go from there, learn from their mistakes. We’re glad to be back tomorrow.”

TC Central jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. As Destinie Swain, Manvella Curry and Curteria Collins came around to score after taking walks to get on base. The team pushed their lead to 6-2 by the end of the second inning, and it was 11-2 by the end of the third inning.

At that point Loachapoka, snuck back into the game, closing the lead to 16-9 by the end of the fourth inning.

The no-hitter ended in the fifth inning, as Loachapoka recorded a single and scored several runs on passed balls, cutting the lead down to 16-13 by the end of the fifth inning.

TC Central kept their composure and increased their lead in the sixth inning, scoring four runs to make it 20-13. Loachapoka answered with two runs to make it 20-15 at the end of the sixth inning.

TC Central added four more runs in the seventh inning, sparked by a double from Destinee Garrett to push their lead to 24-15. Loachapoka put three runs on the board but TC Central was able to close out the game for the victory.

Kayla Bell earned the win in the pitcher’s circle for TC Central after entering the game in relief for Nyah Garrett, who still had a no-hitter.

While TC Central lost their first game of the day, the team actually led the three-time defending state champs 4-0 at the start of the bottom of the first inning. Ragland came back to tie the game 4-4 by the end of the first inning.

“The girls’ confidence level in the beginning was good,” Gooden said. “They played them really close at the beginning. I was impressed with their hitting and running, and they were very encouraging towards each other. So, that’s what I was very impressed with this morning.”

The team had fallen behind 12-5 by the start of the third inning. Savona Garrett used opportunistic base running to score a run. She took a walk at the plate, before stealing second base, then third base and reaching home plate on a throwing error to cut the lead to 12-6.

Ragland put four runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third inning before starting pitcher Kayla Bell was lifted by Nyah Garrett. Ragland added two more runs before Tiarrial Duncan got a force out at second base to get out of the inning.

Curteria Collins led off the fourth inning with a double and Destinee Garrett followed that with an infield single, but Ragland recorded three straight outs to escape the inning without any damage.

Ragland added three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning for the win.

Gooden feels her team’s hard work is what got them to Regionals.

“Talladega County Central has not really had a successful softball program in the past,” Gooden said. “This year, their attitudes made the biggest difference. Once their attitudes improved and their confidence level after the first two or three games, I think that has helped them to make it to Troy. We can’t take any credit for that. They’ve worked hard in and out of the game, even at home they practice. So, we’re really proud of them.”

© 2013