By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WOODSTOCK -- Katelyn Poston knew exactly what was coming.
Right before Poston's at-bat in the second inning, Central coach Lisa Rhodes told her to be sure of the first pitch before swinging.
Poston liked what she saw and hit the first pitch for a home run to help give Central a 2-0 Bull Run District softball tournament quarterfinal victory over Strasburg.
"I like them high and right down the middle and that thing was high and right down the middle," Poston said. "As soon as I hit it I felt it was going over."
The home run over the left-field fence was Poston's third of the year, and one of only seven hits total in the game.
"It was funny that happened right after I told her to make sure of the first pitch. And it was the first pitch and she must have been sure of it," Rhodes said. "She was very confident and aggressive at the plate tonight, and it paid off for her."
It was also plenty of offense for Central pitcher Sydney Plum, who threw a four-hitter and struck out 10 to advance the fourth-seeded Falcons to today's semifinal against top seeded Madison County.
Plum kept the Rams off balance throughout with a devastating change-up.
"I knew coming out here that we had to keep them off balance, so I focused on working on my different speeds when I warmed up," Plum said.
Rhoads said she knew by the way Plum was throwing during the warm-ups it could be a really good night.
"Her change-up looked awesome," Rhodes said. "It was phenomenal. Even in warm-ups it was there. She was throwing them at her spots in the warm-ups. And I thought if she carries that over to the game she's going to be hard to hit tonight -- and she was."
The Falcons (11-9) added another run in the bottom of the third. Kessa Hawkins drew a walk, and an error on an attempted sacrifice bunt by Mary Wakeman put runners on second and third. Morgan Davis' groundout RBI gave the Falcons a 2-0 cushion.
The Rams (8-13) had a few chances throughout the game, but couldn't get any runs in. In the top of the seventh, Makayla Peer led off with a double into left field, but Plum struck out Marissa Doman and Kasey Fauber, and Wakeman then made a nice catch on a line drive by Lexi Schlag to end the game.
"It feels good knowing that my girls got my back, and Mary made an awesome catch at the very end," Plum said. "Everyone played well all around, so it makes it easier to pitch."
The win gave the Falcons a season sweep of their county rivals.
"Strasburg -- it's a rival -- and I think to beat them three times is definitely a big feat," Poston said. "I think it's even more memorable that for our first district game we got to beat Strasburg. And we got to beat them three times this year, and I think that's pretty awesome."
Peer had two hits to lead the Rams.
Despite the loss, Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias said she was happy with how her team played.
"Our hitting sort of let us down this evening," Mathias said. "We had opportunities to get runners in and we couldn't push them across. I thought both teams played good defense, and it just came down to who would get the runs in -- and Central did that tonight."
The loss ended the Rams' season, but with a young team Mathias said she is happy with how they did this year.
"We got a lot of kids coming back," Mathias said. "We'll be OK. We'll just continue to get stronger each year."
Poston, Mariyah Viar and Katelin Kline had Central's three hits. The win clinched the Falcons' second consecutive Region B berth, and the players believe this year they will be more prepared to play in regionals, where last year they lost in the quarterfinals.
"I'm excited. I definitely think this year we have a good group and we're all on the same page," Poston said. "Last year we kind of got off the same page once we got to regionals. And this year I really don't foresee that happening. As along as we continue to work hard in practice I think we're going to be able to go further than we did last year."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org