MACON — Central Academy softball coach Sammy Lindsey thought his Lady Vikings grew up a lot Saturday at the Starkville Academy Invitational.
That growth continued Tuesday night as Central Academy defeated Hebron Christian 9-2 in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class A, District 3 opener for each school.
“District games are where it is at,” Central Academy senior outfielder Cassie Campbell said. “If you want to make the playoffs, you have to win these games. We really wanted to come out and get things started on the right foot. We played well and did that.”
The rain-plagued game was played on a muddy field and took more than three hours to complete thanks to two weather delays.
“The conditions were less than ideal for either team,” Lindsey said. “You don’t want to be out there when it is like that, so I am really glad we gritted our teeth and battled right through the obstacles.”
Central Academy (6-4) was playing three days after placing third in the tournament at the Starkville Sportsplex. Leake Academy beat Winston Academy in the championship game. Central Academy lost to both teams in the double-elimination event.
“Leake and Winston are both really good,” Campbell said. “We felt like we proved we can play with each of them and we are just as good as they are. We play a bunch of teams bigger than us. That is how we get ready to play in the playoffs.
“I thought we learned a lot about ourselves in that tournament. Then, we went to Heidelberg (Academy) Monday night. Even though we lost there, it was another chance for us to play against another bigger school and another really good opponent. Then we come back home and win this game because we were prepared.”
The Lady Vikings played four opponents in higher classifications in the tournament.
“I thought offensively we were really good Saturday,” Lindsey said.”The team grew up a lot. We have several situations like there where we have a chance to grow and mature. When you play as many good teams as we do, you are pleased when you can finish in the top three of a tournament.”
Hebron Christian built a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Lindsey said starting pitcher Courtney Gaylord has struggled early in some games but has settled down quickly. That was the case Tuesday, as the Lady Eagles had only six more runners the rest of the way.
The Lady Vikings again played an errorless game, including a nice stab by second baseman Sadie Lindsey to end the second inning when the Lady Eagles had the bases loaded and could have seized the lead.
Central Academy scored six runs in the home half of the first and wasn’t threatened after Lindsey’s snare ended the second inning.
“Offensively, we have really improved since the beginning of the season,” Sammy Lindsey said. “At the beginning of the year, I thought we would be able to score some runs. Even though we only had (five) hits in the game, you like a lot of the things we did at the plate.”
The Lady Vikings added three runs in a second inning prolonged by the second weather delay. Central Academy capitalized on a hit batter and 11 walks.
“We are trying to force some things on offense,” Central Academy senior catcher Blake Rigdon said. “If we get on base, we are going to make the other team try to put us out on the bases. Even though we can’t get better at our hitting, I think we do a great job with extra base runners by the other team.”
Batting from the eighth spot in the lineup, Campbell had two hits, reached base three times, and drove in three runs. Rigdon also reached base three times, including a two-run double. Sarah Norris and Sadie Lindsey also had run-producing hits in the first.
“This team has gotten closer since the start of the season,” Campbell said. “As a senior, you want to really give it your best. We feel like we can make some noise in the playoffs. The goal is to get there and to do that if you have to make sure you win the important games, so this is a good start.”
Rebeka Joy Falkner and Brooke Griffin had two hits apiece for Hebron Christian.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.