By Mark Clark
Every team’s goal entering a new season is to go undefeated no matter which sport is being played. For the Central High baseball team, if that were the goal, it has changed quickly. The new goal is now just to learn from its mistakes and get better.
The Red Devils opened the 2018 baseball season with four consecutive wins. They have now matched that in the loss column and entered this week at 4-4. It is nothing to be concerned about, according to Central coach AJ Kehoe, as long as the team does one thing – learn what it did wrong and correct those mistakes.
“It has been a tough week. We started with a one-run loss in extra innings against Northview and ended with a one-run loss at home against Marianna, Florida,” Kehoe said. “But, this week can be a positive if we learn from it. You try to win every game, but with so much failure involved in baseball, you have to make them learning experiences. We are extremely young when it comes to experience. We have to grow up and maintain a sense of urgency when we play.”
If Kehoe wanted to point to one particular problem with last Saturday’s loss to Marianna (Fla.) High, he would point to the team’s complacency.
“We got three runs in the first inning and had the momentum. Then we have about two innings of poor at-bats. We gave too many ABs away. In our loss to Northview, I think we had thirteen runners stranded on base. I think five of those left on were at third base with less than two outs. We just did not get the job done, but we are working to get better. We are moving people around to find the right combination. We still have time. There are a lot of games left this season,” Kehoe said.
Central started last week against Northview High. Central lost the game 4-3 in nine innings after coming back to tie the game in the seventh inning. Slade Gorman knocked in Andrew Valero, who singled to begin the inning, on a ground ball. Central stopped a Northview threat in the eighth inning with a short-to-home-to first double play. Central wasted an eighth inning threat of its own with a when it stranded a runner at second. Northview scored a run in the top of the ninth when it strung together a single, a double and another single to push in the winning run. In the bottom of the frame, Central had a final chance when Jay Kehoe walked to start the inning. He went to second on an Alex Baker single. But then, the Red Devils followed with a fly out and a ground out to end the game.
Central used eight pitchers for the game. The group teamed up for an eight-hitter with 13 strikeouts.
Jay Kehoe was 3-for-4 at the plate to lead Central. Mason Davis, Baker and Valero were each 2-for-5. Zach Johnson and Gage Tillery were both 1-for-2. Baker and Gorman both had doubles in the loss.
Central fell behind Troup County High 4-0 before managing a run in the fifth inning. Brayden Pelkey walked and scored on a single by Riley Rutledge. After Troup County went ahead 6-1, Baker tripled and scored on a wild pitch for Central’s other run.
Rutledge was 1-for-2 while Baker and Tillery were each 1-for-3 for Central at the plate.
In their final game of the week, Central jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first inning against Marianna (Fla.) High. Baker reached base on an error and moved to second on a ground out by Tillery. Baker scored when Gorman singled. Gorman made it to second on the play as Marianna attempted to get Baker at the plate. Gorman scored when Jay Kehoe scored. Kehoe moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tucker Melton. He scored when Zach Johnson singled with two outs. Central led 3-0 until Marianna scored a run in the second, another run in the third and two in the fourth to take a 4-3 lead.
Central had a chance to tie the game in the seventh. Tillery singled to start the inning. He went to second on a ground out by Gorman. Tillery was called out on a close play at the plate when Jay Kehoe singled to left. He was left at first as the third out came on a called strike three.
Jay Kehoe was 2-for-3 at the plate to lead Central. Pelkey was 1-for-2. Gorman, Johnson and Rutledge were each 1-for-3 while Tillery was 1-for-4 in the loss. Tommy Vickers took the pitching loss, going five innings, allowing seven hits and striking out five. Peyton Burton relieved in the last two innings and did not allow a hit and struck out two.
Central will be at home today for a double header with Marbury High. The Red Devils will be on the road Saturday for a doubleheader with Pelham High.