By Mark Clark
The Central High baseball team went 26-14 last season. That is not a bad record over a 40-game schedule. But, it was not good enough to get the Red Devils into the playoffs.
Auburn High and Smiths Station High were the playoff representatives from Area 4 last season and Central was the odd team out. Incidentally, Auburn went on to win the Class 7A state championship. Smiths Station won the 2015 Class 7A title – the first one in the division. Auburn also played for the title one other time in the four years of the AHSAA having the classification.
“There is no doubt we play in the toughest area of the state,” Central coach AJ Kehoe said. “There is a fine line in our area of making he playoffs and not making the playoffs. We are humble enough to understand how tough our area is and confident enough to feel we can compete. If we make the playoffs, we feel like we can make a long run.”
Overall, Central has 36 games scheduled for the season, but the seasons for Auburn, Smiths Station and Central will come down basically to four games – possibly six.
“It is unfortunate that you play 36 to 40 games in a season and it all comes down to four games in your area, maybe six games if the third game of the two series with your area opponents come into play. You schedule as many good games as you can to get ready to play those four games,” Kehoe said.
Tommy Vickers, Zach Johnson, Peyton Burton, Mason Davis, Jay Kehoe, Jeremy Thorne and Peyton Fowler are all senior pitchers for the Red Devils. Two other players, Zion Morris and Tyler Haines – are both sophomores.
The Red Devil lost five players from last season’s squad with significant playing time – Slade Gorman, Alex Baker, Andrew Valero, Riley Rutledge and Tucker Melton. All but Melton graduated. Melton chose to focus on football where he expects to play at the college level.
Returning to the starting lineup are shortstop Mason Davis, second baseman Gage Tillery, first baseman Thorne, designated hitter and first baseman Noah Butler, catcher Kehoe, centerfielder DJ Rias, left fielder PJ Ramsey and third baseman Brayden Pelkey.