The key to postseason success can sometimes be who gets hot at the right time.
This year, in softball Class 2A, Sectional 41, it was Centerville’s Bulldogs.
The ‘Dogs added to an impressive surge at the end of the season Wednesday night with a decisive, 5-1 victory over host Union County, advancing to host a one-game regional at 7 p.m. Tuesday night against the winner of Sectional 42.
It’s the first sectional title for the Centerville softball program.
Less than 24 hours after shutting down Tri-Eastern Conference champion Lincoln, sophomore Lauren Honkomp was back in the circle doing more of the same for the Bulldogs.
She blanked the Patriots until there was one out in the last of the sixth inning, and by that time, Centerville already had a comfortable, five-run cushion.
The ‘Dogs didn’t give anything away, making the defensive plays behind Honkomp for the second night in a row.
“Pitching so well came easier for me because I knew my defense would play well behind me, and with Alexis (Cox) behind the plate, we make a good duo,” Honkomp said with a wide smile.
The sophomore also had a big impact at the plate with a fourth-inning, two-run homer that doubled the margin to 4-0.
“It was an inside pitch — the kind of ball I can hit — but I didn’t think it was going over the fence, I thought it would hit the fence, it was my first home run this season,” Honkomp said.
Offensively, there were numerous other Bulldog heroes.
Kaylin Smith had a first-inning double to bring in Honkomp and give the ‘Dogs an early lead. Amanda Wilson had a double in the third inning, Morgan Pruitt singled in Natalie Josephson in the fourth, then the Honkomp homer also bought in Cox in the top of the fifth inning. Alexx Marshall singled in Josephson for the final Centerville run in the top of the sixth inning.
The UC run came in the home sixth inning, as Makayla Pike singled in Maria Duckworth, who started the inning with a double. The only other Patriot hits were singles by Maddy Walters and Emma Adams in the second and fifth innings, respectively.
The Honkomp numbers for the team’s two sectional wins are 19 innings pitched, just one run, only eight hits, with 23 strikeouts.
Centerville head coach Avon Miller was overjoyed with the timely emergence of his team, which stood just 6-7 overall and 2-3 in the TEC just one week ago. Centerville won two conference games to end last week, and now has two huge sectional wins to stand 10-7 on the season.
“I was fairly confident we would come out well (Wednesday) after such a big win (Tuesday) night, and I have to give all the praise to all of the girls. They all played well, and I think I have finally convinced them to believe in themselves.”
Coach Scott Gray believed the Bulldogs played well and earned the sectional championship.
“Centerville is a hot team right now, and Lauren Honkomp was just incredible,” Gray said of the Centerville sophomore pitcher. “For her to throw so many pitches in the Lincoln game, then come out the next night and throw like she did was very impressive. She is going to be very tough, and Centerville is going to be a tough out for the next couple of years, because she is just a sophomore.”
He had great praise for his team, which ends the season 16-10.
“Brooke (Reiboldt) fought on the mound tonight, and all of my girls always play hard and fight. That’s what I love about them.”
Reiboldt, Duckworth and Krista Hofer are the three seniors graduating.
For Centerville, it is postseason softball success for seniors Pruitt, Marshall and Makayla McFarland, and a core of talented underclassmen.
Sectional 42 was scheduled for a title game tonight to determine Centerville’s regional foe.