Softball: Burlington Central overpowers Hampshire
Updated: May 22, 2012 8:38PM
Burlington Central softball coach Cray Allen could almost see the pressure building before Tuesday’s opening Class 3A regional game at home against rival Hampshire.
It manifested itself in the form of a quick 4-1 Central deficit, but by the fourth inning the Rockets had found a way to tie the contest and then the pressure released in the form of an explosion as Central scored six in the fifth and went on to a 13-4 victory to earn a berth in Saturday’s 11 a.m. championship game.
“We had flown under the radar most of this year but I think our kids were getting caught up a little bit,” Allen said. “I think there was a little pressure on us today. I really do.
“We were at our place, it was the first game of the regionals, it was the first postseason game for a lot of these kids.”
Central catcher Bekah Harnish and Brooke Gaylord, who started in the circle and went the first two innings, opened the release valve on that pressure in a big way. Harnish hit an RBI triple in the fifth to break a 4-4 tie, then Gaylord hit a two-out home run to left-center field that made it 7-4.
The Rockets (27-8) added a two-run double by Rebecca Roscher and RBI double by Lauren King in the inning to move comfortably ahead, but starting out slowly didn’t sit well with any of them.
“We’ve done it before,” said Gaylord, whose homer was her sixth of the season. “We know we can’t keep making a habit of it, because it’s not going to help us.
“But when one person gets a hit and it just keeps making a snowball and everyone just keeps hitting.”
The hitting continued in the sixth when Harnish belted a solo home run, Haley Albamonte followed with a double and Gaylord tripled in another run.
Gaylord hadn’t been happy with her pitching when she left with a 1-0 lead. But she wasn’t displeased with her bat.
“I just know that no matter what, I have to help my team and if I’m not doing the greatest on defense then I know I can pick them up on offense,” she said after a 2-for-2 day with three runs and three RBI.
Harnish went 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBI, Kassi Gaylord 2-for-3 with an RBI and run and Sarah Kisch 2-for-2 with two runs and two RBI.
“I thought we did a little small ball in the second and third innings and tried to get something happening and get a little rhythm going,” Allen said. “And once we got the rhythm going we were OK.”
Fourth-seeded Hampshire (11-24) got the lead against winning pitcher Kassi Gaylord (three innings, five hits allowed, four strikeouts) with a four-run third. The big hit was Jordan Hook’s bases-loaded, two-out triple to left-center on a 3-2 pitch. Then Rebecca Hurst singled her home.
Hampshire errors played a big role in Central tying the game with a run in the third and two in the fourth.
“It was exciting for the first four innings,” said Hampshire’s Ken Bram, who coached his final game Thursday after five years as head coach. “We made some mistakes in the outfield — couldn’t catch a fly ball — two mistakes in the infield and you can’t do that against Burlington Central, and they jumped all over those.
“The girls gave it their all, though. They were a positive group who always stuck together.”
Jennifer Hurst suffered the loss, allowing eight of the 14 hits Central had off her in the final two innings.
Now Central faces either DeKalb or Sycamore in the finals. The Barbs are seeded higher. Sycamore beat Central in the season-opener.
Bram said he’s stepping down for personal reasons — daughters who are 8 and 10 years old.
“I don’t see my daughters much and they’re in so many activities that I need to be there for them,” Bram said. “They’re at that age I can’t miss out on. I love doing this, and it’s hard but I’m (stepping down) for the right reason.”