By Mark Clark
Central High coach AJ Kehoe said Slade Gorman was wondering when a day like he had this past Saturday would come. Kehoe told his two-time all-state player to just be patient. He told him his hard work would pay off.
It did when the Red Devils rallied past Spain Park for a 15-10 victory on Saturday at Darnell-Nelson Field as the team won its ninth consecutive game in the past two weeks. Gorman, who has already committed to Chattahoochee Valley Community College for next season, put on a show of power against the Jaguars with three consecutive home runs in his first three at-bats in the final game of the annual East Alabama Classic.
“What a heck of a day he had, didn’t he? He’s a special player. He’s a team player. He has a tremendous work ethic and he had some great approaches at the plate today. In fact, he had some great approaches in each of the games of this East Alabama Classic. He’s had a high slugging percentage all season. I kept telling him to hold on that the home run power would come,” Kehoe said.
Overall for the Classic, Gorman was 8-for-13 at the plate. The three home runs against Spain Park came in the first, third and fourth innings. All three homers came on two-strike counts. He had a solo shot in the first when Central was down 3-0. He got his second home run to cut the Jaguars’ lead to 6-2. That home run sparked Central to a four-run inning to trail 6-5 after a two-run home run from Noah Butler. In the fourth inning, Gorman smashed a three-run home run to make the score 9-8 and then his teammates took over to take a 12-9 lead – Central’s first of the game. After a walk sent one runner home to tie the game at 9-9, Alex Baker tripled to clear the bases of three runners to give his team the 12-9 advantage.
Central gave up another run to its opponent in the top of the fifth inning to make the score 12-10, but then added three runs in the bottom of the sixth to account for the final margin.
“In the last four games of this stretch, we have found different ways to win. We’ve had some excellent hitting, some good defensive plays when we
needed them and some good pitching. Each game, a different area stepped it up to help us. We just really scratched and scrapped together some wins. The long ball helped us today. Last night, it was pitching. This is how we have to win games to be successful,” Kehoe said.
Gorman led Central at the plate with a 3-for-4 performance with his three home runs and five RBI. Mason Davis was 2-for-3 and Gage Tillery was 2-for-4. Tillery had a double. Baker was 1-for-4 with four RBI.
Tyler Haines began the game on the mound for Central, but stepped aside for Davis in the fourth inning. Davis picked up the win. Peyton Burton come in for the final inning and did not allow a run or a hit.
Earlier on Saturday, Central defeated the team that sent them packing for the off-season in 2017 – Alma Bryant – 14-3. Leading 5-3 as it entered the bottom of the fourth inning; Central ran nine runs across the plate in the half frame to lead 14-3. They shut out Alma Bryant in the top of the fifth to end the game on the 10-run mercy rule.
Central scored three runs in the first inning on doubles by Jay Kehoe and Brayden Pelkey and a sacrifice fly by Butler. In the second inning, Baker singled and scored on a double by Gorman. In the third inning, Butler walked and later scored on a single by Davis. In the fourth inning, Central used four walks, four singles, two doubles and a home run to score its nine runs.
Tillery was 2-for-2 while Gorman and Davis were each 2-for-3. Pelkey was 2-for-4. Gorman and Pelkey had two doubles each and Davis had a home run.
On the mound, Zach Johnson started and picked up the win. Tyler Horsley and Zack Bozeman finished the game in relief. The trio combined for a five-hitter.
In their second game of the EA Classic on Friday night, Central beat Theodore 7-2. The Red Devils trailed 2-0 until the bottom of the fifth inning when they struck for six runs. Andrew Valero began the inning with a walk. Gorman was hit by a pitch. Tillery singled to load the bases. Valero scored when Jay Kehoe walked. Pelkey singled to drive in Gorman and Tillery. Kehoe scored on a passed ball. Pelkey came home on a single by Butler. Butler scored on a single by Davis.
Valero was 1-for-1, walked twice and was hit by a pitch. Tillery, Pelkey, Butler and Davis were each 1-for-3.
Tucker Melton got the pitching victory, going five innings, allowing seven hits, two runs and striking out two. Johnson and Burton finished the game in relief not allowing a run and only a single hit.
Central defeated Sparkman 8-2 to start the Classic on Auburn High’s home field last Thursday. The Red Devils jumped ahead for a 7-0 lead before allowing a pair of runs by Sparkman in the fifth inning. Gorman started off the first inning with a single and scored on a single by Tillery to give his team a 1-0 lead. Tillery made it 2-0 after stealing a pair of bases and scoring on an error on the throw to third in his second steal. Valero was hit by a pitch in the second inning and scored on a single by Tillery to make the score 3-0. In the third inning, Central upped its advantage to 7-0. Pelkey and Davis had singles to begin the inning. Pelkey scored on a double by Melton. Davis scored on a single by Baker. Melton and Baker scored when Gorman got his second single of the game.
Gorman was 3-for-4 with two RBI. Tillery and Baker were each 2-for-3. Davis was 2-for-4. Melton had a double and Gorman had a triple.
On the mound, Tommy Vickers got the win, going five innings, allowing four hits and two runs. He got relief help from Bozeman and Burton who did not give up a hit over the final two innings.
Central will be on the road in Oxford for a tournament until Saturday when it returns home to face Huntsville High at 11 a.m. EDT. This past Tuesday, Central was scheduled to play Oxford and Hewitt-Trussville. On Wednesday, they were to play Hartselle and Gadsden City. Today, the Red Devils have a game scheduled with Albertville and then one with a Tennessee school to be determined.