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March 27, 2014

Bronchos kick off Red Dirt Classic

CENTRAL HIGH — Central High will start its home tournament, the Red Dirt Classic on Thursday. Five Stephens County team will be participating with the first game being held between Chattanooga and Elmore City-Pernell at 10:45 a.m.

Here’s a rundown of what the teams are focusing on going into the weekend:

No. 18 Central High — With a young nucleus, coach Jeff Jones needed his underclassmen to play well. Freshman Dylan Jones has done that and more, leading the Bronchos (7-5) with a .500 batting average and 17 RBIs. The numbers are great, but the coach appreciates the attitude of his young player.

“He’s got ice water in his veins,” Jones said. “When he gets out there, the pressure doesn’t get to him, and he just performs. His way of thinking is ‘I’m either going to hit it or I’m not.’ That can be a good thing, especially in a freshman.”

Jones has drawn five walks, and struck out only once. The whole team has excelled at not letting the pitchers get ahead of them, with a team .430 on base percentage. Senior Kade Taylor leads the Bronchos in this attribute as he has 15 times this year by means other than a hit. Dylan Jones said being patient at the plate can only be a benefit for the team.

“If you take them deep in the count, all you’re doing is making the pitcher throw a lot more pitches,” he said. “The more you work him, the more tired he is going to get. All that’s going to do is make the other team go through pitchers faster.”

The Bronchos get a bye in the first round and will play the winner of Empire and Temple. That game will take place at around 8 p.m. depending on the games before it.

Comanche — Cody Crow has had to take much of the pitching burden for Comanche (0-6) so far this season, but coach Brent Crow faces the possibility of not having him, along with seven other players, due to a speech and debate tournament this weekend.

Crow turned to Patrick Seward and Dalton Wood to lighten some of that burden and, for the most part, that worked. This weekend he is trying to figure out a possible fourth or fifth option on the mound.

“We’re going to have to,” Crow said. “Those three have always been very dependable pitchers.”

The coach is looking at three options. He thinks Tanner Ressell will be the fourth pitcher. Russell normally starts for the Indians at second base. He is grooming Kyle Reed and Hunter Powell for that possible fifth spot. Both might get a chance to pitch in the Classic.

The Indians face Velma-Alma on Thursday around 4 p.m.

Velma-Alma — Cutting down on the mental mistakes is the first item of business for the Comets (1-4), who lost 9-3 versus Rush Springs Tuesday.

Coach Colt Allison said it was the toughest team that he had played all year, but was still disappointed they gave the Redskins so many runs off errors.

“We are a very young and immature team as far as baseball experience,” Allison said. “It’s going to take us until the end of the season to get to where we need to be, but we can cut down on our mental mistakes.”

Allison tries to remedy that problem by dealing with difficult situations in practice. The best learning experience is playing the game as far as he is concerned, and he wants to get his players comfortable in those high-pressure moments. They will have plenty this weekend as some of the teams, especially host Central High, like to steal, bunt and hit and run.

“We have to throw strikes. That’s the first thing,” Allison said. “If we do that, I think we’re good enough defensively to where we can field it and throw a guy out.”

Velma-Alma starts the Classic Thursday versus Comanche around 4 p.m.

Empire — The Bulldogs (3-6) have struggled with errors this season and commited a few more in the 12-10 loss to Walters on Tuesday.

Fortunately, their bats have been hot, scoring 25 runs in their last two games. Junior Dillon Twigg thinks they need to carry that confidence over to the defensive side of the game.

“When we start making errors, we start getting down on ourselves,” Twigg said. “Baseball is probably the biggest mental game out there. One error could ruin the whole game for yourself if you start thinking about it too much.”

Empire’s first game is against Temple around 6 p.m. on Thursday.

Bray-Doyle — The Donkeys (2-4) showed promise at the plate in two losses to Central High on Tuesday.

They had leads in both games and threw just two pitchers, Cody Watson and Cody Matthews. While both are experienced, sophomore Jacob Henderson said the whole lineup has helped them out when they are on the mound. Errors were a big factor in the losses Tuesday night.

“They can’t do it all by themselves,” Henderson said. “You have to have a team behind them to win a game.”

For the Donkeys to get better at fielding, Henderson thinks they just need more game experience. They had only played four games going into the double header with Central High. The Bronchos had already played 10. He thinks the tournament will put them on a more even playing field.

The Donkeys play their first game of the Classic versus Walters on Thursday around noon.

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