By Mark Clark
Central High’s baseball team claimed two more victories against no losses this past week, but they also did something more important than playing the sport. According to Red Devils’ coach A.J. Kehoe, he took his older players to Beauregard for a day to help in the clean up of the recent tornadoes that destroyed a good portion of its community and killed 23 people.
“We felt it was the right thing to do. I took some of my older kids up there to help out. Some of the players stayed at the church to help distribute items to people who needed them and others went with me out in the field to help clean up debris,” Kehoe said.
Kehoe coached Beauregard High before coming to Central as an assistant under Bobby Howard three years ago and then becoming the head coach of the team when Howard resigned after two seasons.
“I still have a lot of friends and old players in the area. I felt it was something we needed to do to help that community. It helped our kids see how terrible things were for the people there and what they could do to help them – even if it were for only one day,” Kehoe added.
And when the squad turned its attention back to baseball, it extended its winning streak to four games with wins over Hardaway (Ga.) High and Enterprise High. Central beat Hardaway 2-0 and then defeated Enterprise 5-3.
“We saw some good things from our team this week and we saw that we still have some areas for work. We let plenty of opportunities get away from us. We were not as disciplined as I thought we should be at the plate. We squandered opportunities too many times,” Kehoe said.
Still, Kehoe was pleased to win games. He was especially pleased that his team beat a team that had defeated an opponent his squad had lost to in Hardaway and had gotten a clutch two-out hit against Enterprise, something that had been eluding the team this season.
“I was happy to see us beat Hardaway after we lost to Columbus and they beat them. I was also pleased to see a two-out hit when we needed one. We have not gotten a lot of those so far when we needed them. But, I am not upset with the way we are playing because we have only played 10 games. We have plenty of time to work some things out before things get important. Our hitting has nit been where we want it to be, but I think we peaked too early last year and it hurt us. If things peak at the right time, what we do right now will not matter a whole lot later in the year. We just have to keep grinding away,” Kehoe said.
Tyler Haines pitched a gem for the Red Devils in a 2-0 victory over Hardaway to start last week’s play. Haines improved his record to 2-1 with an ERA of 0.375 over 18.2 innings. He has allowed only one earned run over that span in a loss to Columbus. In fact, that is the only run Haines has given up earned or unearned while on the mound.
Haines went the distance on the mound – 7 innings – against the Hawks, allowed only three hits and struck out 10 to secure the victory for his squad. He did not allow a Hawk batter past second base.
Haines has 27 strikeouts this season with two walks while giving up 14 hits.
Central scored its winning run in the bottom of the third inning. With two outs, Mason Davis singled to right. He scored on a double in the left-center field gap by Gage Tillery.
Central added an insurance run in the fifth inning when Tillery hit his second double and scored on a Jay Kehoe double.
Tillery was 2-for-3 with two doubles and one RBI. Kehoe was 1-for-2 with a double and one RBI. Brayden Pelkey and Davis were each 1-for-3.
Central used a three-run third inning to claim its victory over Enterprise’s Wildcats last Saturday afternoon at Darnell-Nelson Field. The Red Devils held an early two-run lead, but let it slip away in the top of the fifth inning. In the bottom of that frame, Pelkey led off the inning with a single. With two outs, DJ Rias, Jeremy Thorn and Zion Morris all drew walks which forced in Pelkey with the first run of the inning. Davis then slapped a two-out single to right-center field which drove in Rias and Thorn to give Central a 5-2 lead.
Enterprise added a run in the seventh to make the final tally 5-3 in favor of the Red Devils.
Peyton Burton picked up his first pitching victory of the season in relief of starter Peyton Fowler. Fowler went 2.1 innings, allowed six hits, one run, no earned runs and struck out two. Burton went the next 2.2 innings, gave up six hits, allowed an earned run and struck out three. Tommy Vickers went the final two innings for the Red Devils on the mound, allowing one hit, one earned run and he struck out one.
Burton has tossed 10.2 innings over six games while adding up 11 strikeouts and walking only two batters.
Davis and Pelkey both led Central at the plate with 3-for-3 performances. Davis had two RBIs while Pelkey chipped in one. Thorn was 1-for-2 while Tillery and Kehoe were each 1-for-3.
Central was scheduled to play Troup County this past Tuesday after Citizen Press time. The Red Devils will begin play in the annual East Alabama Classic today with a 7 p.m. EDT contest with Saraland. On Friday, Central has a split double header, taking on Grissom at 6 p.m. EDT and then Hewitt-Trussville at 9 p.m. EDT. On Saturday, Central has a single game with Tuscaloosa County beginning at 3 p.m. EDT. All of the Red Devils’ East Alabama Classic games will be played at Darnell-Nelson Field. Next Tuesday, Central will be at home to face Harris County at 6:30 p.m. EDT. The Red Devils will be playing 17 games over the next 15 days.