David Mitchell commentary: Future bright for Red Devils

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 19, 2014 

I’d like to recite a few numbers for you and then explain why they are so significant to the Central Red Devils baseball team so far this season:

Eight, 20, 171, 366.

We'll start with eight. That is the number of wins this team had a season ago. At 8-29, the postseason was nothing more than a fairy tale. Only a handful of players were particularly productive, and the program was leagues behind its Alabama public school counterparts Smiths Station and Russell County.

There were a couple of encouraging performances, like those from Blake Johnson and Jamal Howard, who have signed to play in college at UAB and Alabama, respectively, but for the most part it was a long season.

And then there is 20, which, of course, is the number of wins the team has compiled so far this season.

With 19 games left on their regular-season schedule, the Red Devils have already compiled 12 more victories than they did a season ago. I could of course add the numbers 29 and three to the conversation, which are their respective loss totals from 2013 and 2014. If Central were to lose the rest of its games this year, it would still have improved its loss total by seven this season.

Not that anyone is expecting that to happen. This team is too good.

Take the next number, for example: 171. That is the number of runs the team has already scored this year in 23 games.

I'll do the math for you. That's 7.43 runs per contest, made possible in large part because of its impressive batting average. The team is batting .366 and reaching base at a .458 clip. As a team, the Red Devils have 67 extra-base hits.

The numbers could go on. I could mention Central's 2.19 team ERA or Jamal Howard's five home runs.

Or maybe the fact that three players have already surpassed 20 RBIs this year: Jay Baker with 23, Howard with 22 and Coleson Taylor with 20.

I could point out that every pitcher with more than 10 innings pitched has an earned run average under 2.50, and two of them (Weston Dawson and Gage Dollar) are under 2.00.

What it all adds up to is a team with a very bright future in the second half of its season.

It's too early to make predictions for this team. It still has a difficult area schedule left to play -- three games against Opelika (today and Friday), three against Auburn and three against Smiths Station.

And it hasn't been perfect.

Its fielding percentage could be better, as it is averaging well over an error per game.

It's not a bad total, but giving good teams extra chances could hurt it down the stretch.

At the very least, though, Central's first-half performance indicates a vast improvement over its 2013 season.

At most, it could be a very encouraging sign of things to come in 2014.

David Mitchell, dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.com; Follow David on Twitter@leprepsports.

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