September 17, 2013 11:27:28 PM
MACON -- The Central Academy fast-pitch softball team has taken on opponents of all classifications this season.
That's only fitting because the Lady Vikings have won games in nearly every fashion. Whether it has been with only two hits or with 10 or with a flawless game in the field or with a handful of miscues, Central Academy has found success in a variety of ways. The ability to win games with different methods helped Central Academy go undefeated in Class A, District 3.
Central Academy will try to parlay that unblemished record into even greater success this weekend when it will be one of four No. 1 seeds in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class A North State tournament on Saturday at Carroll Academy in Carrollton. As of Tuesday night, Central Academy's opponent and time for its first game hadn't been set.
The top four teams that advance through the first day of the double-elimination tournament will return to Carrollton on Monday to determine seeding for the overall Class A State tournament. Carroll Academy, Benton Academy, Marshall Academy, Tunica Academy, Greenville Christian School, Deer Creek School, and Kemper Academy will join Central Academy in the tournament.
"Carroll Academy dropped down from AA last year, and Marshall dropped down from AA, so you expect them to be really strong," Central Academy coach Sammy Lindsey said. "Benton Academy won the state last year in A, so it is going to be some stiff competition.
"We have been playing some of our best ball. (On Monday), we didn't play like we had been playing, but for the last three or four weeks we have been playing pretty well. We have cut down on our errors and put the ball in play. We feel we have a good chance to advance to the state tournament. All you want is a chance to advance."
For Central Academy (15-8, 6-0 district), which was the Class A runner-up in 2009, the first step will be to win two games Saturday to keep its season alive. Seniors Blake Rigdon and Cassie Campbell aren't looking at anything except that.
"I think we are pretty ready because we have had a really good season," Campbell said. "Being district champions has given us boost that we need to go down there and prove that we have. Being a small school, nobody has respect for us, and they think we're going to go down there and they are going to blow us out. I don't think it is going to be like that. I think it is time for us to show them how good we are. I think it is our year."
Central Academy closed the season Monday with a 9-1 loss to Class AA Winston Academy. Lindsey said Central Academy trailed 2-1 in the fifth inning before an error helped Winston Academy extend the lead.
Last week, Central Academy defeated archrival Kemper Academy 13-3. Savanah Stapleton (home run), Courtney Gaylord (triple), and Sarah Norris all had two hits, while Rigdon, Kayla Brown, and Campbell added singles.
Gaylord struck out four and allowed three hits and four walks in five innings to get the victory.
Rigdon and Campbell, who are joined by Norris and Neely Abrams as the team's four seniors, said pitching and defense have been two keys this season for the Lady Vikings. They know that scores of 2-1 and 1-0 will be more of what is needed this weekend if they are going to advance.
Central Academy's only loss in Class A competition was to Heidelburg Academy. The Lady Vikings have competed and defeated many of the bigger local schools, including Heritage Academy, Central Academy, and Oak Hill Academy. Lindsey said he always has tried to schedule games against larger schools because he feels it will prepare his team for the postseason. He feels the Lady Vikings are primed to put everything together because they have shown signs of doing parts of a whole game during the regular season.
"Our pitching has improved as the season has progressed," Lindsey said. "The play of the young ones also has improved. We expected the seniors to play well because they are supposed to. They all have played well."
But Campbell and Rigdon don't want the team to look too far ahead. They are content with securing two more victories and then re-focusing on what they have to do to get the highest seed possible for the North State tournament.
"It is not like we're undefeated," Rigdon said. "Teams have beaten us this year, so it is not like we're cocky about it."
Said Campbell, "We're not cocky at all. We're confident."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
2. Schaefer, Stuedeman travel to promote respective programs COLLEGE SPORTS