September 25, 2009 8:11:00 AM
The Central Academy fast-pitch softball team has accomplished one of its goals.
Now it''s time for the Lady Vikings to take the next step.
Fresh off an undefeated district run, Central Academy will travel Saturday to Cleveland to play in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools North Half A tournament at Bayou Academy.
Hebron Christian, which earned the No. 2 seed out of District 3A, will join Central Academy (17-4) at the tournament, which kicks off with games at 10:30 a.m.
Central Academy will play Tri-County, the No. 2 seed from District 4A, while Hebron Christian will play Benton Academy, the No. 1 seed from District 4A, in the first games of the double-elimination event that will run all day.
The tournament final is scheduled to be played at 8:15 p.m., with an if-needed game to be played at 10 p.m.
Central Academy coach Sammy Lindsey said the rain of the past two weeks has hampered his team''s preparation for the tournament. He said the Lady Vikings have been forced to train in a covered area under the highway bypass in Macon. Even though the team hasn''t had many typical practices, he feels the team is ready for this weekend.
"We have played pretty steady the whole season," Lindsey said. "We have basically the same team from the first time we made the playoffs, and now we''re a year older and more experienced. We feel if a couple of things go bad we can overcome them and rebound and still have an opportunity to win the game."
Central Academy''s Class A slow-pitch title earlier this year gives the team added confidence entering the North Half fast-pitch tournament.
The top two teams from this tournament will advance to the overall state tournament.
Hebron Christian coach Cass Tapley feels his team is playing well enough that it could be one of those teams.
Earlier this week, the Lady Eagles beat Calhoun Academy 13-3 and Kemper Academy 11-1 to win the rain-shortened District 3 tournament and secure the No. 2 seed.
Solid hitting from Chloe Tapley, Cathryn Moore, Magen Tapley, Hillary Arnold, Taylor Lancaster, Brittany Ousley, and Prysilla Skelton sparked Hebron Christian and helped the team regroup from a slow start to the season.
Tapley said his daughter, Chloe, also found her rhythm in the circle. She struck out 18 and didn''t allow a hit against Calhoun Academy and Kemper Academy.
Coach Tapley said Chloe recently visited her pitching coach, who helped identify mechanical problems that were affecting her control. He said Chloe is now staying on her power line and going straight at hitters and isn''t leaning back as much.
"She hadn''t had a tuneup in about three months," Tapley said. "She was walking seven or eight a game. She also lost a few mph on her fastball and none of her other pitches worked. But once she got her control back she was able to throw all of her other pitches."
Tapley said he would have liked to have taken Chloe to visit the pitching coach earlier in the season, but they just could find the time to make it happen.
Now, with a re-focused pitcher and a potent hitting attack, Tapley believes his team has the potential to extend its season past this weekend.
"Every team there is pretty close," Tapley said. "Bayou Academy should be the class of the tournament. They are three-time winners. They will be a challenge."
n Caledonia hosts district tournament: The Caledonia Lady Confederates will host the MHSAA Class 1, District 1 Tournament on Saturday.
Caledonia will play West Lowndes at 11 a.m.
The tournament starts at 10 a.m. with Corinth playing Ripley.
Aberdeen drew a bye as the No. 1 seed and will play the winner of Corinth and Ripley at noon.
The championship game will be at 1 p.m.
Caledonia played Columbus on Thursday and swept the match in three sets.
Caledonia won the match 25-14, 25-23, 25-18.
Caledonia (11-3) was led by Shaina Cruse with 11 assists, four kills and an ace, Kara VonKanel with five aces, five kills and two blocks, Sunnie Rushing with five blocks, an ace and a kill, Blaire Ruth with four blocks and two aces, Kori Hankins wth two aces, Whitney Pounders with two blocks and Macy Hicks with a block.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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