Central right fielder Darbi Boyles had just made a diving, backhand catch of Olivia Andrews’ sinking line drive to end the fifth inning of a 1-1 game in the District 6 AA quarterfinals Monday.
When the Lady Dragons got to their dugout, coach Dale Walter urged them to “Feed off that.’’
They did, taking a big bite out of third-seeded Bald Eagle Area’s hopes of defending its District 6 AA title, scoring a run in the top of the sixth.
And when they scored again in the seventh, they swallowed BEA’s season whole, taking a 3-1 decision to move into the semifinals at Philipsburg-Osceola at 4 p.m. Thursday.
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“We call those splash plays,” Walters said of Broyles’ spectacular catch. “A play like that is a positive for the defense and a negative for the offense. But it can be a home run, or an error that gets a runner on.
“That would have been an easier play if it had been to her glove-hand side. To slide like that isn’t easy but she’s made three or four big time catches like that for us this year. That play was huge because it kept them from getting a rally started. The key thing is she went for it. We had moved her right before that pitch and they hit it right to her.”
For her part, Boyles knew what she had to do.
“I told myself I had to get down,” she said. “I ended up on my back and I had to look to see if I had caught it. I knew if I made the catch it would pump us up.”
The two teams had met twice during the season with BEA wining by 4-2 and 2-1 scores, so it was no surprise that this game wound up in a hair pull.
BEA scored first when in the third inning Morgan Nyman led off with a single to center and took second when the throw to try to get her at first was wild. She took third on a passed ball and scored when Dallis Dillon grounded out third to first. Nyman beat the throw home with a head-first slide to put her team in front — but not for long.
In the top of the fourth, Marissa Snyder led off, and after Nyman was unable to catch her pop foul next to the backstop screen, she crushed the next pitch, sending a line drive over the fence in left center to tie the game.
Central took the lead without a hit in the sixth when Olivia Smith was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Rachel Reed sacrificed her to second and Smith went to third on a wild pitch. On Snyder’s grounder to third, Marissa Tobias’ throw to first pulled Logan Fischer off the bag and into the runner, allowing Smith to score the go-ahead run.
Central got an insurance run in the seventh when Jenna Ritchey’s fly to right fell behind Mackenzie Proctor, who fell down charging in to make the play. Ritchie wound up on third and scored on Boyles’ sacrifice fly to center.
“I think after we lost to them 4-2 and 2-1, our girls felt they were very capable of beating them,” Walter said. “We knew if we threw strikes and played well enough on defense to make the majority of plays, we wouldn’t give up any big innings. We didn’t look so good warming up but this was the best defense we’ve played all year.”
BEA coach Curt Heverly noticed.
“If we would have played defense like they did we would have won this game 1-0,” he said. “They had more energy on defense than we did and they got the clutch hits. That was a nice play their right fielder made. That’s the kind of plays we made last year. Our pitcher (Sidney Shultz) pitched a heck of a game. She didn’t give up an earned run
“But they played a great game and we didn’t and that’s my fault. I accept the blame for that. We just never played the game we expected one time this season. This team never played to its potential.”
Shultz finished with a four-hitter while her counterpart, Lexi Ritchey, held the Lady Eagles to two hits: Nyman’s single and Haley Giedroc’s infield single to lead off the seventh..
For Central, the 11th seed coming into the playoffs, the game is a confidence builder as it heads into Thursday’s matchup with P-O, a 9-1 winner over Bishop McCort on Monday.
“We knew this would be a big game,” Boyles said. “We practiced for five hours on Saturday. And last night after our softball banquet, we got together and went and hit for two hours. This is huge. This is the feeling that will keep us going.”