Jun. 11—If a 14-pitch at-bat wasn't enough to jangle her nerves, Paris Williamson still had several high-pressure moments staring her in the face during Thursday's Division II Central Section softball matchup with Garces Memorial.
The Centennial senior was up to the challenge.
Williamson worked out of a nerve-wracking, bases-loaded fifth-inning jam, and the offense and defense gave her enough support to help the seventh-seeded Golden Hawks win a 5-2 road tilt with the second-seeded Rams.
Inserted into the game with two outs in the second inning, Williamson allowed just one of the first seven batters she faced to reach base, only to see things get much tighter in the fifth inning.
With a runner on first and her team trailing 2-1, Jasmine Gorman battled Williamson for 14 pitches before drawing a one-out walk. Next batter Ellie Waguespack nearly gave the Rams the lead, but her potential extra-base hit leaked just foul past the third-base line. She flew out two pitches later.
Another scare followed as ensuing batter Carlie Cheek blasted a would-be three-run home run to left that also went just foul. While Cheek did single to load the bases, Williamson escaped the jam by forcing Angie Silva to fly out.
Despite the intensity of the moment, Williamson says she made sure not to overthink her approach.
"I don't focus on anything but pitching whenever I pitch," she said. "I work on my spin, I work on where I need to throw the ball, where I need to go to make the batter thrown off. I just worry about my spin, that's it."
Though the lead eventually expanded, the drama wasn't over.
Centennial pushed home three runs over the next two innings, scoring on RBIs by Mackenzie Johnson and Hannah Mosesian and a throwing error to take a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
The Rams didn't go quietly though. Emme Roberts doubled and scored on an error, before Silva came to the plate as the tying run and lifted a hard-hit ball to right-center field. But Mikayla Alejandro ran down the long fly ball just in front of the fence, getting the critical second out before Williamson ended the game with a strikeout.
Alejandro also made a huge play in the first inning. With the Golden Hawks up 1-0, she threw Gorman out at home as she tried to score from second on a Cheek single. Catcher Mosesian then doubled-up Cheek for the third out as she attempted to run to second.
"That's a momentum-stealer," Centennial coach Joseph McIrvin said. "That happens quite a bit for us because we work on those exact kinds of plays. The the kids executed it and did a great job."
Now winners of 10 straight games, Centennial advances to the semifinals to face third-seeded Selma next Tuesday. The Bears advanced with a 7-6 win over Monache on Thursday.
Golden Hawk players seem very confident they can keep the momentum going.
"I think we're going to go to Valley," Williamson said. "I think we're going to go pretty far. We're together as a team ... have worked together every day to get here. We're going to be ready."