CENTRAL -- A year ago they split a pair of one-run games and shared the District 4-5A softball championship.
Live Oak and Central were back to their dramatic, heart-pounding ways in the league opener for both teams Thursday at Lady Wildcat Park.
Central, the reigning Class 5A state champion, rallied from an early four-run deficit and capped a three-run, two-out rally on Kylie Chauvin’s two-run single in the bottom of the 7th inning for a 6-5 victory over the Eagles.
“We knew we were going against a quality program,” Live Oak coach Michelle Morris said. “The last couple years, they’ve been close games on both sides, so we knew what to expect. We just didn’t pull through in the end.”
Central (8-3, 1-0 district) completed the comeback by sending four consecutive batters to the plate against Eagles’ pitcher Lindsey Rizzo, who recorded the first two outs in the 7th inning.
Trying to secure the final out and ultimately the victory, proved elusive for Live Oak (6-6, 0-1).
“We needed to beat somebody we knew with an historic program,” Central coach Michelle Efferson said. “(Morris) said they’re up-and-down, but there’s never a down year at Live Oak.”
The final-inning dramatics began with Bobbie Amond’s bloop single to right field. Rizzo, a Southeastern Louisiana signee, then issued her second and third walks of the game –free passes to Krystal Stubbs and Ali Pourciau.
Ninth-place batter Maci Werchan (2-for-4) closed the gap to 4-3 with an RBI infield single, utilizing her speed to beat the throw to first base and keep the Lady Wildcats’ hopes alive.
That set the stage for Chauvin, the leadoff batter, who got a favorable count against Rizzo before grounding a 2-and-1 pitch into the hole between third base and shortstop.
Chauvin’s grounder gained some momentum when it kicked off the back of the glove of a diving Katie Vandermark at shortstop and went into shallow left field, not only scoring pinch runner Destiney Gary from third base but Pourciau from second.
Live Oak left fielder Robin Capps’ throw was on target to the plate, but the ball squirted out of catcher Brett Leiva’s glove and onto the plate itself, allowing Pourciau to slide in safely
Rizzo (6-5) yielded 11 hits, six runs (five earned), walked three and struck out two.
“I told Maci, ‘all you have to do is get on – nothing big’,” Chauvin said. “It’s just us believing in ourselves. Getting the young ones up and believing in what we know we can do.”
Morris liked her team’s chances after Rizzo got catcher Raegan Willis to line out to BreAnna Corkern at 3rd and struck out Kamryn Jordan to begin the 7th inning.
“We were in the driver’s seat after the first two outs, but just didn’t finish it out,” Morris said. “We shouldn’t let that (blooper) affect us and we didn’t answer back in the circle. It had a domino effect.”
Live Oak took advantage of a pair of 1st-inning errors to forge a 4-0 lead, including Aubrey Rabalais’ bloop single to left that produced a run.
“We haven’t been giving her a lead so it was a nice cushion to give her in the beginning,” Morris said of Rizzo. “We answered back in the 5th and felt confident. They’re a quality team that’s been here before and knew what to do.”
Efferson didn’t wait long to switch pitchers, removing starter Ashlyn Lord in favor of Emily Danehower, who started the game at second base.
Danehower (4-3) entered the game without anyone out in the 1st and got a fielder’s choice, along with a pair of strikeouts, mixed in with Rabalais’ RBI hit.
She gave up right of Live Oak’s 10 hits, but didn’t allow a run until the 6th inning when the Eagles extended their lead to 5-3 on Madi Sunde’s bases-loaded walk.
“Sometimes a change of pace in a game is key,” Efferson said. “They’re two totally different pitchers. Emily’s a great second baseman, but she’s also a great pitcher.”
Chauvin (3-for-5, 3 RBIs) singled home Pourciau in the 3rd inning and Stubbs homered to lead off the 4th, reducing Live Oak’s lead to 4-3.
Corkern, who went 2-for-4 along with Capps, also turned in some sterling defensive plays in the infield, starting a 5-3 double play to end the 4th inning and making the relay after Rizzo ignited a 1-5-3 double play to conclude the 6th.
“We didn’t have the mental side of the game in the end and they had the upper hand,” Morris said. “It came to the wire at home plate.”
CENTRAL 6, LIVE OAK 5
Live Oak 400 002 0 -- 5 10 4
Central 010 110 3 -- 6 11 3
Lindsey Rizzo and Brett Leiva; Ashlyn Lord, Emily Danehower (1) and Raegan Willis. W – Danehower (4-3). L – Rizzo (6-6). 2B: Live Oak – Rizzo, Robin Capps, Central: Willis. HR: Central – Stubbs. Records: Live Oak 6-6, 0-1 District 4-5A; Central 8-3, 1-0. Up next: Hannan Tournament – Live Oak vs. Archbishop Hannan, 4 p.m., Friday at Coquille Park in Covington; St. John Tournament – Central vs. Plaquemine, 4 p.m. Friday; vs. Assumption, 6 p.m.