After falling into a deep hole in the first three innings against Auburn on Wednesday, Central had everything as it wanted it in the bottom half of the final frame.
The bases were loaded, trailing by just a single run where a hit means a victory, and Slade Gorman — its hottest hitter — was at the plate. He had already knocked a pair of singles earlier in the game.
As is common in baseball, though, not everything falls the right way.
Gorman popped out to end the rally just short in a 7-6 loss to open Class 7A, Area 3 play. Central coach Roy Dixon said after the game that the team just didn’t get the break that he was hoping for, but that he was impressed with its ability to battle.
“Slade Gorman has been our hottest hitter all year,” he said. “We had the right guy up, we just didn’t get the break we were all hoping for.”
Coming from behind has been a common theme of these Red Devils all season. Dixon said that 22 of the team’s 25 wins had come after Central was trailing earlier in the contest. It appeared the Red Devils would make it 23-of 26 despite falling behind 6-0 after three innings on Wednesday.
Auburn got a run in the first inning on a triple by the appropriately named Austin Triplett, driving in Jonathan Smith who had reached on an error. The Tigers began to break things open in the second, a three-run inning in which they notched three hits. Troy Williams singled to lead off the inning and came home on an error off a ground ball by Jackson Speaks. Speaks came around to score on a double by Rowdy Jordan, and Jordan scored on a single by Smith to make the score 4-0 after two.
After Central left a pair on base in the bottom of the second, Auburn came back and put two more on the board in the third on an RBI triple by Williams and an RBI single by Harris White.
“I felt like we hit it hard from the start, but we just hit some right at them early and gave up too many the other way,” Dixon said. “When it was 6-zip, I told them, let’s cut it to 6-2 or 6-3.”
They did a little better.
The Red Devils notched three runs in the fourth to cut it to 6-3. Weston Dawson led off with a solo home run, and the next three batters all followed with hits. Jermond Williams singled, Noah Wilkes doubled and Dayton Edmonds singled, driving in Williams. Jackson Cook hit a sacrifice fly to bring home the third run in the inning.
Central cut it to 6-5 in the fifth. Three of the first four batters (Gorman, Jay Baker and Williams) singled to open the frame. The last of the three, Williams’, drove in Gorman to cut it to 6-4. Wilkes followed with an RBI groundout to make it 6-5.
Auburn got one back with an RBI double from Smith in the sixth. Central scored one in the seventh on an RBI fielder’s choice off the bat of Cook and loaded the bases with two outs, but couldn’t quite finish the rally.
“Anytime you’re down 6-0, it’s tough to battle back,” Dixon said. “But, hey, we’ve battled back all year. I’d take any one of these guys with me because they compete. They’re just a bunch of try-hards, man. Just a bunch of try-hards, and they’re going to compete with us every inning.”
Central has a chance to rebound right away on Thursday when it plays a doubleheader against Auburn to round out the season series. In a three-team area, there is very little room for error, and Dixon knows that.
“There are no moral victories for us,” he said. “Our goal is to be area champs, and we’re going to line up and play two more (on Thursday).”
Wednesday at Central
Auburn 132 001 0—7 9 0
Central 000 320 1—6 15 2
WP—Chase Storm. LP—Ethan Baber. Leading hitters—Auburn, Smith 2-4, 2B, 2 RBIs, R, Triplett 1-4, 3B, RBI, Williams 2-4, 3B, RBI, 2 Rs, Jordan 2-4, 2B, RBI, R; Central, Evan Baber 2-4, 2B, Slade Gorman 2-3, R, Weston Dawson 1-4, HR, RBI, R, Jermond Williams 4-4, 2 Rs, Noah Wilkes 1-4, 2B, RBI, R, Dayton Edmonds 3-3, RBI. Records—Auburn, 19-9, 1-0; Central, 25-8, 0-1. Next—Auburn, Thursday vs. Central (doubleheader) at home; Central, Thursday at Auburn (doubleheader).