Central softball heading to the third round

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And then there was one.

Of the 12 Record teams to make the NCHSAA state playoffs in the baseball, softball and girls soccer, Harnett Central softball is the last one still standing. The No. 9 Trojans (14-5) won their second round game on the road at No. 8 Southern Nash convincingly, topping the Firebirds (17-5) 10-2. It’s the second straight year that Central has advanced to the third round. The Trojans also played at Southern Nash in the second round last season, winning 6-1.

Central jumped out to an early lead, scoring four runs in the top of the first. They never looked back from there, tacking on a run in the fourth, another in the sixth and four more in the seventh to take a commanding 10-0 lead into the final frame. Southern Nash was able to scrape a couple of runs together, but it was too little too late as Central locked up the 10-2 victory.

Central now faces its toughest test of the season. The Trojans will travel to face No. 1 D.H. Conley (23-1). The Vikings will likely be better than anyone Central has played all year, but the Trojans have caught fire down the stretch. After losing their first four games of the year, the Trojans have won 14 of their last 15 games, including 11 straight victories on their way to both the Tri-County Conference regular season and tournament titles. And while D.H. Conley’s only loss came early to an undefeated Washington team, the Vikings are far from unbeatable. They barely escaped their second round matchup with No. 16 seed Orange, winning 2-1 in eight innings.

It was D.H. Conley’s lowest run total all season, which before was four in a 4-2 win over South Central. The Vikings are a strong hitting team, averaging 11.3 runs per game. They showed that in the first round, when they beat Westover 22-1. The Trojans will likely have to put in a great performance at the plate to have a chance. That’s no easy task either, as the Vikings’ staff boasts a 1.68 ERA.

The Trojans also have a little bit of revenge at stake that may serve as motivation. D.H. Conley beat Central 3-2 and knocked them out of the second round of the playoffs back in 2017. Five of Central’s seniors — Shelbie Gill, Kylee Frailey, Lyndsey Brewer, Kolby Medlin and Ansley Lee — were sophomores on that year’s team.

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