Take care of business in the first-round of the playoffs? Check. Now the Central High School softball team will hit the road the road for even tougher competition in its quest to make a return trip to Columbus.
The second-seeded Lady Lions are set to travel for their second-round playoff series with Region 3 champion Burke County in a 4 p.m. doubleheader on Wednesday in Waynesboro. The if-game is set for 2 p.m. on Thursday.
For a program where making it to the elite eight has almost become a birthright, one would venture to guess that a change in focus and intensity comes once the postseason starts. But under head coach Dave McKenna, it's just business as usual.
"Our focus really doesn't change. It's just one game at a time," McKenna said. "For the most part, we're a pretty veteran team. Our seniors have been to Columbus and finished in the top four of the state the last four years. They know what needs to be done and what we need to be focused throughout weeks like this. It helps that we've been there before and know what to expect being in the sweet 16. We have to be ready to play."
Heading into the second-round matchup, McKenna's Lady Lions (24-6) are focused and locked in on what needs to be accomplished to defeat Burke County (17-10). Central put down Blessed Trinity with relative ease in last week's first-round battle, but weren't necessarily crisp in the batter's box with several 1-2-3 innings. The head coach made sure his team honed in on this as the competition gets ramped up.
"We came back out and had a really good hitting day on Thursday," McKenna said. "We focused on our approach at the plate because we really didn't do that good of a job against Blessed Trinity in hitting our pitches in hitters' counts. We really did a great job scoring the ball a lot and doing what we needed to do to get back focused in that aspect of the game."
The Lady Lions will travel to face a Burke County squad that is riding a wave of momentum, having won five straight contests, including a pair of 10-run victories over Hardaway that got it to the second-round. The Lady Bears are aggressive and Central will have to be sound in all aspects of its game to capture a pair of victories this week.
"We know they're going to be aggressive on the bases, so we're working on certain situations where the outfielders need to throw to different bases just to be used to it," McKenna said. They're a fundamental and well-coached team. Their top four or five hitters can swing it and they have a pitcher who hits her spots, has pretty good spin and can throw in the upper 50's. We do a better job at hitting pitches off pitchers who throw a little bit harder, so I think she'll be right in our zone of pitchers that we can square up and do some damage hitting. If we can put three or four across in each game, I think we'll be all right."