MARIETTA — Forsyth Central head softball coach Bill Richardson wasn’t able to pick up his 151st career win Friday night, but earning number 150 a day earlier guarantees that he’ll have a shot at more victories this season.
The Lady Bulldogs punched their ticket to the Class 5A state tournament on Thursday with a 4-3 victory over Sequoyah in the third round of the Region 7-AAAAA tournament at Al Bishop Park. Central joins Class 6A local programs Lambert, South Forsyth, West Forsyth and Region 6 champion North Forsyth in the postseason, marking the first time that five Forsyth County teams have reached the state playoffs.
Central (15-15) suffered a 9-5 loss against Kell (14-8) on Friday in a battle to determine the No. 3 seed from the region, but was scheduled to have another shot at it in a rematch with the Lady Longhorns on Saturday.
The Lady Bulldogs will be making their first appearance in the state playoffs since 2009 when the postseason opens on Wednesday, and though Richardson would like to earn as high of a seed as possible, he is most concerned with getting his team mentally prepared for that upcoming series.
"[We have to] focus on what we need to do, support each other, get to where we were yesterday and the day before and we’re OK," Richardson said.
"I won’t ever say I don’t want to win a game, but my bigger concern is next Wednesday because that’s when we make a definite move to the next step in the postseason."
Central’s Jessica Dunn smashed a two-run double in the first inning that scored Lexi Bump and Taylor Alton, but Kell pitcher Sara Howard ( 5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 K, 8 BB) stranded runners on first and second with a pop out and fly out to end the inning.
Kell scored its first run in the top of the second inning without a hit. Taylor Colclasure drew a walk to start the inning and then stole second base before taking third on a fielding error. Colclasure then crossed the plate after a wild pitch to cut Central’s lead 2-1.
The Lady Longhorns scored again on a wild pitch in the third inning to tie the game at two apiece. Kell finished the game scoring three runs on wild pitches.
The fourth inning was all Kell as Kristy Pearson started the inning with a walk and took second on a wild pitch. Sarah Flatebo singled to put runners on the corners for Jill Torres, who drew a walk to load the bases for Sierra Shipley. Shipley hit a grounder to the shortstop, but an attempted force out at third went awry when the ball was thrown off target that resulted in three runs crossing the plate. Hannah McKinley hit a triple to score Shipley for the final run of the inning, giving Kell a 6-2 lead.
"We’re going to stop freaking out over things that don’t matter," Richardson said. "We’re going to start doing the things that got us through the first two days of this tournament — that is support each other, stay positive and stay together. That’s how we win games, when we play together."
Kell added another run when Flatebo crushed the ball over the center field fence off Central pitcher Carrlyn Kiser (7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 4 K, 3 BB) in the fifth inning.
Central closed the gap in the bottom half of the frame when Rachel Karlan blasted the ball over the left field fence for a two-run home run that scored Taylor Alton. The Lady Bulldogs loaded the bases with two outs, but failed to bring home another run, as they trailed 7-4. They finished the game leaving 11 runners on base.
Kell cushioned its lead in the seventh when Central made two errors that resulted in two runs.
The Lady Bulldogs attempted a comeback in the bottom of the inning when Bump hit an RBI single to score Kiser, but couldn’t score another run and left the bases loaded.
Central will open the state tournament on Wednesday as either a No. 3 or No. 4 seed against the No. 1 or No. 2 seed from Region 6-AAAAA.