Red Devils run into buzz saw in Oxford

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Face three SEC commits and one for the Sun Belt

By Mark Clark

Just when things were going Central High’s way, they ran into something unexpected in a spring tournament in Oxford last week. The Red Devils went into the tournament riding high on a nine-game winning streak with a No. 10 ranking in Class 7A by the Alabama Sports Writers Association and a 13-4 record. When the tournament ended, Central was 15-8 after a 2-4 showing.

And after returning home to face Huntsville High this past Saturday, Central saw its record drop to 15-9 after losing 7-6 in nine innings to the visitors from North Alabama.

“I guess you could say we ran into a buzz saw up in Oxford. We faced three pitchers who are commits to Alabama, Mississippi State and Auburn and one who is committed to Troy in the Sun Belt. We saw some really good arms. The first two games we played were in the rain and wind. We don’t have any excuses. We just did not play very well,” Central coach AJ Kehoe said of his squad’s performance over the past week.

Central – through its game on Saturday – had played 10 games in 10 days and finished 5-5. An even record for the stretch, but not what Kehoe expected of his team.

“We were playing well until the tournament. We were working hard to get wins, finding a way to win games,” Kehoe said.

Central opened the Oxford tournament against the host team – Oxford High – and fell 11-1. The game did not get out of hand until the third inning when Oxford scored six runs to lead 9-1.

Tommy Vickers took the loss on the mound for Central. The Red Devils only got four hits in the loss. Mason Davis was 2-for-2 while Alex Baker was 1-for-2 and Jay Kehoe was 1-for-3.

Also on the opening day of the tournament, Central suffered a 9-5 loss to Hazel Green. The game was tied at 4-4 heading to the seventh inning. Hazel Green scored five runs in the top of the seventh and Central managed just one in the bottom of the frame to lose the contest late.

Peyton Burton took the pitching loss for Central in relief of starter Tucker Melton. Melton went six innings and allowed five hits and four runs while only two were earned. Burton gave up four hits and allowed five runs – only one of which was earned.

At the plate, Slade Gorman was 2-for-2 with a home run and two RBI. Zach Joyner was 1-for-1. Noah Butler and Alex Baker were each 1-for-2. Butler had a double.

Central got a win in its third game of the tournament, beating Hartselle 8-7. Zach Johnson picked up the pitching victory for the Red Devils. He went 5.1 innings, allowed seven hits and three earned runs. Brayden Pelkey, Jay Kehoe and Burton pulled relief duty in the contest to preserve the victory.

Davis led Central at the plate with a 2-for-2 performance and scored three runs. Baker was 2-for-3. Gage Tillery and Kehoe were each 1-for-3. Tillery had a double and scored two runs. Kehoe had a double. Gorman was 1-for-4 with a double.

Central fell to Gadsden City 5-3 in their next contest in Oxford. Central led 2-1 until Gadsden City scored four runs in the top of the fifth inning. Tyler Haines was the losing pitcher for Central. At the plate, Andrew Valero was 1-for-1. Davis was 2-for-3 and Butler was 2-for-4. Tillery and Kehoe were each 1-for-3. Davis and Kehoe both had doubles.

Central’s bats came to life in their next game, an 18-1 rout of Albertville. The Red Devils had 21 hits to score their 18 runs. Central scored a single run in the first inning, seven runs in the second inning and 10 runs in the fourth inning against Albertville which scored its lone run in the third inning.

Peyton Foster was Central’s winning pitcher. He allowed one hit and struck out five over four innings.

Gorman and Melton were each 3-for-3 at the plate. Melton had a triple and scored three runs. Gorman scored two runs. Jeremy Thorn, Kehoe and Baker were each 2-for-2. Baker had a triple, Kehoe had a double and Thorn scored a pair of runs. Riley Rutledge, Pelkey and Butler were each 1-for-1. Pelkey had one RBI. Jordan Mitchell and Vickers were both 2-for-3 and both had a RBI. Joyner and Valero were both 1-for-2. Joyner had a double.

Central finished the tournament as it had begun the event, with an 11-1 loss to Oxford. Mason Davis took the pitching loss. Valero was 1-for-1 while Davis and Baker were each 1-for-2.

Central returned home to face Huntsville on Saturday and fell 7-6 in a nine-inning contest. Central took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, fell behind 4-1, regained the lead at 6-4 and then allowed Huntsville to tie the game with single runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Huntsville scored what proved to be the winning run in the top of the ninth. Central had runners in scoring position in each of the last two innings. The Red Devils had the bases loaded with one out in the eighth, but could not score a run.

Pelkey took the pitching loss in relief of Vickers and Melton. Vickers started the game and went 4.1 innings and allowed five hits and three runs. Melton went 2.2 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on three hits. Pelkey went the last two innings and gave up two hits and one run.

Butler led Central at the plate with a 2-for-3 effort. He had one RBI. Kehoe and Valero were each 2-for-4. Kehoe had a double and one RBI. Valero had a triple. Thorn was 1-for-1. Gorman, Tillery and Davis were each 1-for-3. Gorman had a double.

Central will be at home on Friday for a doubleheader with Prattville. ON Saturday, the Red Devils travel to Dothan to face Northview. Next Wednesday, Central will play a single area game at Auburn and then a doubleheader on Thursday at Darnell-Nelson Field.