By Mark Clark
Finally, the games that count are upon the Central High Red Devils – the first of two three-game series against area teams. Central was slated to begin its first three-game series last night on the road at Smiths Station. Tonight, the Red Devils will be at Darnell-Nelson Field for a doubleheader against Smiths Station.
The first two games against the Panthers will count in the area standings. The third game is used to determine tiebreakers, if necessary.
Central was 16-10 entering the area series. Smiths Station was ranked as the No. 1 Class 7A team in the recent Alabama Sports Writers Association poll and has a 19-4 record over-all.
“It’s time. We have put in the work. We’ve made adjustments. Our record means nothing. All that matters now are our six area games. Our players are looking forward to playing these games. We get to play Smiths Station, the No. 1 ranked team in Class 7A, this week. They are very talented, a lot more talented than any team we’ve played this season. If we are going to have a chance to make the playoffs, we have got to win the freebie game. We cannot give our opponents extra outs. We are going to have to get some two-out hits to score some runs. We won’t be able to rely strictly on pitching or hitting home runs to win games in the area,” said Central coach A.J. Kehoe.
As it headed into area play, Central finished up a stretch of 17 games over 19 days by going 12-7 which included a 3-4 record over the final week. The Red Devils took victories over Hamburg, N.Y., 8-1, Lawrence County 4-1 and James Clemens 10-0. They lost to Hickman, Mo., 4-1, Hokes Bluff 3-2 and twice to Prattville 5-2 and 8-7.
Central started the spring break with its win over Hamburg at Jacksonville State University. The Red Devils scored all the runs they would need to win the contest in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, Mason Davis singled and then stole second base. Brayden Pelkey reached base on an error which allowed Davis to score. Pelkey advanced to second on the error. He scored when Jeremy Thorn had a two-out triple to right. Noah Butler’s single scored Thorn to make the score 3-0. After Gage Tillery coaxed a walk to reach base, P.J. Ramsey singled to drive home Butler to make the score 4-0.
Central added single runs in the second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings to finish out its total of eight runs for the game. Hamburg scored its lone run in the top of the sixth inning.
Bryce Sanders was the winning pitcher for Central. The freshman went the distance on the mound, allowed four hits and struck out five. Sanders was 2-0 after the victory, which was his first start of the season for Central.
At the plate, Davis led the way with a 3-for-4 performance. Thorn was 2-for-4 with a triple. Pelkey was 1-for-2 with a triple. Tillery and Thorn both had doubles for Central.
Central did not fare as well in their 4-1 loss to Hickman. Zion Morris was the losing pitcher for the Red Devils, allowing four runs on four hits. Morris gave up just two earned runs.
Bryce Davis was 1-for-1 to lead Central’s hitters. Pelkey was 1-for-2. D.J. Rias and Davis were both 1-for-3. Davis had a double in the loss.
The Red Devils lost to Hokes Bluff 3-2 in nine innings in its next contest of the spring break. Central scored first in the bottom of the first inning. Rias tripled to open the inning and scored on a sacrifice fly by Davis to give the Red Devils a 1-0 lead.
Hokes Bluff scored twice in the second inning to take the lead at 2-1. Central tied the game in the seventh inning with a solo home run by Ramsey to force the game into extra frames at 2-2.
Hokes Bluff scored the winning run in the top of the ninth inning.
Peyton Burton, making his longest relief appearance of the season, suffered the loss for Central with the unearned run allowed in the ninth inning. Burton gave up four hits and struck out five in relief of starter Tyler Haines.
Jay Kehoe, Bryce Davis and Rias were each 1-for-3 at the plate for Central. Ramsey had a home run. Rias had a triple and Pelkey doubled for the Red Devils.
Central scored two runs in the first inning to take the lead in its 4-1 victory over Lawrence County. Rias singled, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored when Mason Davis doubled. Davis scored when Haines doubled.
Central added two more runs in the top of the seventh to lead 4-1. Bryce Davis singled and with two outs Haines was hit by a pitch. Both runners scored when Pelkey doubled.
Tommy Vickers was the winning pitcher for Central over Lawrence County. Vickers went four innings, allowed two hits and struck out five.
Pelkey was 1-for-1 with a double and two RBIs. Bryce Davis and Haines were each 2-for-3. J.J. Graham was 1-for-2 for Central. Mason Davis and Haines both had doubles.
Central returned home from its spring trip to beat James Clemens 10-0 in a five-inning mercy rule shutout. Central scored what would prove to be the winning run in the second inning. With two outs, Tillery reached base on a fielder’s choice. He stole second and scored on a single by Ramsey. Central scored five more runs in the third inning, three in the fourth inning and one in the fifth inning to win the game.
Thorn was 2-for-2 with two doubles to lead Central at the plate. Ramsey was 1-for-1. But-ler had a home run with three RBIs and Rias had a triple.
Sanders picked up his second win of the week and his third of the season by tossing a one-hitter.
Central lost the first game of a doubleheader to Prattville 5-2. Peyton Fowler was the losing pitcher. Mason Davis, Bryce Davis, Kehoe and Ramsey were each 1-for-3 at the plate for Central.
The Red Devils fell in the second game 8-7 to the Lions. Central led 3-0, but fell behind 6-3 before tying the game at 7-7 in the top of the seventh inning. But, Prattville scored in the bottom of the inning to win.
Haines suffered the loss as he went 1.1 innings and struck out three.
Rias and Ramsey were both 1-for-2 at the plate. Butler, Kehoe and Tillery each had doubles in the loss.
After its area games with Smiths Station this week, Central will be at Northside on Satur-day and at home Monday to face Northview of Dothan.