After sweeping all three games of the tournament, the Central Rebels are the 2023 MAAA Champions. With the top conference record in the regular season they continued their dominance this week, taking down Potosi, West County and North County.
The Rebels blanked the Trojans 3-0 on Tuesday, clipped the Bulldogs 11-6 on Wednesday and sunk the Raiders 9-5 in the Championship Final on Saturday to bring home the hardware.
The game against Potosi was a tight one, but Central had Kendall Horton on the mound throwing B-Bs. He earned the win by tossing four shutout innings of two-hit ball and had a K/BB ratio of 7/3. Kale Dreier shined in relief with a three-inning save and allowed just two hits and a walk.
The offense came from Casen Murphy, who singled in a run in the first. He also hit a ball to second that forced a critical Potosi error that plated a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth. That was all the Rebels would need to move into the Semifinals.
The game against West County started off rocky for Central, as they allowed a run in the first, two in the second and three in the third to go down 6-0, but an epic comeback was brewing. With two on and two out in the bottom of the third, Sammy Callaway smoked a two-run double to center to put a crooked number on the board.
The Rebels were able to plate two more in the next inning with some help from a Bulldog error and a Jaxon Jones RBI single. That cut the lead to 6-4, but Central wasn’t close to finished. Dreier drove in two with a sharp single to third in the fifth and tied it up at 6-all. One batter later, a Jobe Bryant sac fly gave the Rebels their first lead.
Just to make sure West County didn’t get any ideas, Central went ahead and put up four runs in the sixth to put it away. The Rebels took advantage of four Bulldog errors, and as they well know, you can’t give an offense like this second chances. Burned by sloppy fielding the Bulldogs collapsed and Central was headed to the Finals after an 11-6 win.
Dreier and Callaway had huge games in this one. Dreier went 3-for-3 with two runs, two RBI and a steal, while Callaway drove in four to lead the club. Jones also had two hits in four trips and scored a pair of runs.
On the mound Lucas Whitehead got roughed up early, allowing five runs in two innings, but Murphy came on in relief and picked up the win with 3.2 innings of one-run ball. Barrett Henson got the final four outs for the save.
The stage was set for Saturday’s finale against the Raiders, who had made the Finals by knocking off a loaded Valle Catholic club, and this one got off to a raucous start. North County scored three in the top of the first, but the Rebels came storming back with five of their own. The first two hitters reached before Murphy unloaded with a booming shot to right that cleared the wall and the bases, making it 3-3. Horton then gave Central the lead with an RBI double before scoring on a passed ball to make it 5-3.
The Raiders would tied in the very next inning, but the Rebels didn’t let the stalemate last more than an instant. Ty Schweiss was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the inning and then Jones uncorked a screamer to right for a two-run dinger. 7-5 Rebs.
Central would tack on two more in the third, taking advantage of some North County defensive miscues, and then let the arms on the bump take over from there. Whitehead got the win, going 5.1 innings and allowing just three earned runs with six strikeouts. Horton picked up the save, recording the finale five outs, four via the K.
Horton had a big day at the plate as well, going 2-for-4 with an RBI, two runs scored and a pair of steals. The rest of the offensive damage was courtesy of the two big flies from Murphy and Jones.
The tournament wins moved the Rebels to 17-2 on the season, and they are really firing on all cylinders with Districts right around the corner. They’ll get a tuneup against a red-hot Hillsboro team on Tuesday for their next test.