By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Madison Central Lady Indians won their fifth-straight 44th District championship Tuesday with a hard-fought 3-2 win over Madison Southern at Berea College.
Central was one out away from victory in the top of the seventh inning, but an error allowed the Lady Eagles to score a run and tie the game up at 2-2.
But in the home half of the inning, the Lady Indians quickly atoned for the miscue.
Leadoff batter Summer Fleeman drew a walk. Then freshman Emily Frakes came up with the biggest hit of her career, lining a double to the centerfield fence, bringing Fleeman home with the game-winning run.
Frakes said she was a little nervous when she went to the plate, but she got a pitch she liked and hit it.
“When I went up there I was thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness, I hope I hit it.’ My favorite pitch is inside and low and I got one and hit it,” Frakes said. “I didn’t have any doubt that Summer would score when I saw it get by the outfielder. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
An exuberant Central coach Daniel Rogers gave Frakes a bear hug as she ran off the field as the Central celebration began.
“Oh, man that was awesome. I’ve got to get my chest calmed down here,” Rogers said. “You’ve got to give credit to Southern. They are a great team and they played as hard as they could. We played as hard as we could and we just happened to come out on top.”
Southern came out and was the aggressor in the game from the get-go.
The Lady Eagles got a runner to third but failed to score in the first inning, then in the second couldn’t push a run across the plate after getting three straight hits to open the inning.
On the third hit, pinch runner Morgan Reynolds was tagged out in a rundown between third and home. Central pitcher MacKenzie Wilder then got Kelly Freeman to pop out to the catcher on a bunt attempt and Bethany Mays to ground out to second to escape the jam.
Southern coach Brian Foley said his team’s inability to execute with runners in scoring position ended up costing them the game.
“Our situational hitting was not good. With runners on first and third and then with runners on second and third we don’t can’t get a hit,” Foley said. “We did not take advantage of a couple of opportunities we had to score. We had one situational hit tonight and that was the difference in the game.”
While Southern was squandering scoring opportunities early, pitcher Tara Bord kept Central off the board, holding the Lady Indians without a hit through the first three innings.
The Lady Eagles finally pushed a run across the plate in the top of the fourth inning.
Catcher Paige King led off the inning with a double. Alex Nash hit a fly ball to left, moving King to third, then Amber Sparks brought her home with a sacrifice fly to right field to put the Lady Eagles on top 1-0.
Central quickly answered back in the bottom of the inning by taking advantage of two Southern errors to get two runs on only one hit .
That’s the way it stayed until the top of the seventh when Southern, refusing to go down without a fight, battled back to tie it.
Amber Sparks and Freeman reached on back-to-back one-out singles. Mays moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt.
Then Wilder got Alex Nash to pop up in the infield with what looked like the game-ending out. But Wilder and the shortstop, Fleeman, collided and the ball fell to the ground allowing pinch runner Samantha Parms to score to tie it at 2-2, setting up Frakes’ last at-bat heroics.
Wilder picked up the win for Central, going the distance, giving up eight hits, while striking out one and walking one.
Bord pitched a masterful game, giving up only three hits, while striking out three and walking only one batter.
Rogers praised Bord’s performance, but said his team deserved credit for the way it battled and eventually came through.
“Their pitcher kept us off balance most of the game. But the more pitches we see the more we are going to hit and they didn’t give up. That shows the fight this team has,” Rogers said. “That last inning we let some bloopers fall in, but that was the best defensive game we’ve played all year and we needed it. Southern is a great team and we got them today. That’s all there is to it.”
Both teams advance to the 11th Region Tournament which begins Monday in Frankfort. Drawings for matchups for the tournament will be held this weekend.