MURFREESBORO — When the dust had settled, Wilson Central couldn’t get that third strike or that third out.
Gibbs raised itself from the brink several times to stun the Lady Wildcats 4-3 in eight innings of Thursday’s loser’s bracket game in the state softball tournament at Starplex.
Central was one strike from a 2-0 win when No. 9 batter Leah Sohm took a 3-2 pitch for ball four. Faith Lowry followed with a single down the left-field line and Karri Byrd dropped a two-run double down the left-field line to tie the score.
Katie Eakes, who went 4-for-4 and whose spot in the order scored all of Central’s runs, hit her second double of the day to lead off the Central eighth and scored on Karlie Odum’s single down the left-field line.
But Central again couldn’t stand prosperity as Lexie Needham hit a ground-rule double over the right-field fence. She was eventually forced out at home, but Anna Marshon and Holly Moyers reached on fielder’s choices.
Sohm’s infield single scored the tying run and the winner followed on an error on the play as Moyers slid under the tag of catcher Brittany Wiseman in her final play as a Lady Wildcat.
“We just didn’t finish off the game,” Central coach Michael Sheppard said after his fifth season ended with a 34-17 record. “We just didn’t execute on the 0-2 pitch [to Byrd]. She hit a good pitch down the line.
“When we scored in the eighth inning, I knew we would have it again. Their No. 9 hitter did it again with two strikes.”
Eakes opened the Central second inning with a home run to right field. The junior hit a ground-rule double to left to open the fourth and pinch-runner Paige Robinson scored on Claire Smith’s single up the middle.
Hannah Bodenhorn worked around seven hits most of the hot morning with four walks and nine strikeouts.
The Lady Wildcats cracked 12 hits off Rachel Farmer, who stayed in the game after hurting her foot or ankle while knocking down a liner by Kayla Varner which went as an infield single in the seventh. But Central stranded 10 runners.
“But I’m proud of the girls,” said Sheppard, who will say goodbye to seniors Wiseman, Odum and Kelsey Tomlin after having to replace five from the year before. “Nobody expected this out of us before the season.”
In addition to replacing five starters from the year before, the return of freshman Brooke Pfefferle to shortstop solidified the defense as Smith moved to second, giving Central an all-freshman middle infield.
“Our defense got that much stronger,” Sheppard said. “Today was the first game since April 1 we’d given up more than two earned runs in a game.”