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Sports

May 2, 2014

Bronchos come up short of state

CENTRAL HIGH — Senior Kade Taylor slammed his batting helmet down in frustration and took off towards the centerfield wall.

It was over. No. 9 Central High baseball had lost back-to-back games to No. 15 Ringling and No. 8 Navajo at its home regional, and Taylor, among others, was devastated.

The preseason goal of missing No. 4 Sterling in regional play had been met, but Central High (24-10) still had to win. Coach Jeff Jones said his team didn’t come with the same attitude it had played with all year.

“We started doing walk-up music,” Jones said after the second loss. “We broke out the eye black. I don’t know what got into us, because normally I run a tight ship. All of a sudden, we decide that we’re big timers today, and it showed.”

The Blue Devils (18-7) dominated Central High 12-3 in the first game, with the only highlight for the home team coming from freshman Dylan Jones’ first home run of the season. The Bronchos took an even bigger loss when leadoff hitter, senior Austen DeWitt, was ejected from the game for attempting to step on the first baseman’s ankle trying to beat out a groundball.

That sent the .400 hitter to the bench for the 3-2 loss to Navajo (23-10) as well. DeWitt’s replacement, senior Kevin Harris, made a few nice catches in the outfield, but struck out with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth tied 2-2. Jones thought losing DeWitt was a big blow for the team.

“It hurt a lot,” Jones said. “I don’t want to give Austen a lot of credit by saying we would have had a chance if he were in there, because he shouldn’t have screwed up.”

DeWitt was the first one off the bench to congratulate sophomore Joseph Flood and junior Mikey Womack after they scored the first two runs of the second game.

It looked like that would be enough of a lead for sophomore Cooper Phillips, who came out on fire striking out five of the first six hitters he faced.

“He’s the type of kid that makes me think, ‘Man, why didn’t I pitch him the first game,’” Jones said. “It wouldn’t have mattered the way we played today. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

The Bronchos had a couple of chances to swing the momentum in their favor in the second game. With runners on the corners and one out in the fifth, Taylor ripped a shot back at Navajo pitcher Braden Box. Box caught it and threw the ball to first to get the third out of the inning.

Unfortunate circumstances struck again in the bottom half of the inning. With two outs, a Navajo player hit a popup behind home plate. Stalled for a moment by the umpire in his way, Central High freshman Keeton Sallee couldn’t get back on course to catch the ball before it dropped. The next pitch was lined into leftfield to tie the game at 2-2.

The Bronchos did get a break of their own when a Navajo pinch runner failed to touch homeplate in the sixth. The home team noticed the blunder, and it helped them get out of the inning down only one run.

Still, the offense was not enough to propel Central High to victory. Loaded with a young players, Phillips said the future is very bright even with the loss.

“We’re going to miss the seniors we had on this team,” Phillips said. “They’re big for our team, but next year is going to be another good year. We’re going to have a lot of talent.”

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