Bray-Doyle’s Chris Byford throws a pitch in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Central High. Byford finished with 17 strikeouts.

Chris Byford recorded 17 strikeouts to lead Bray-Doyle to a 2-1 victory Tuesday over Central High at the Donkeys’ home field.

Byford, pitching in the Donkeys’ first game of the season, finished with zero walks and had three outs in the game come off of Central High bunt attempts.

“He threw well in his first outing,” said Bray-Doyle head coach Bink Woolbright. “I was real pleased with his effort. He’s in good shape, and we’ll ride him as much as we can.”

The Bronchos (0-3) got a solid pitching performance from senior Michael Whisenhunt, who threw a complete game. Whisenhunt gave up four hits, while striking out five. Central High’s hurler walked seven Donkey hitters, but stranded eight on base.

“Defensively, we played as well as we’ve played,” said Central High head coach Jay MacArthur. “We just couldn’t get any timely hitting. We should have been able to hit his fastball.”

Wilson Nease finished the game 1-for-3 with a double, while Whisenhunt went 1-for-3 with a single. Byford reached three times on walks, while Harley Nelson led Bray-Doyle with a 2-for-3 showing at the plate.

Central High got its run off of a Ryan Lawrence solo home run in the third inning. Lawrence battled Byford to a full count with two outs, before driving a fast ball over the left-field fence. The homer gave Central High the early lead, but it wouldn’t be able to get much more off of Byford.

The Donkeys quickly responded in their half of the third, as Byford drew a two-out walk. Bray-Doyle first baseman Robert Jenson stepped up, delivering a double to the left-center wall, plating Byford and tying the game at 1-all.

Bray-Doyle would take the lead in the fourth inning, as walks came back to get Whisenhunt and the Bronchos. After fanning the first hitter in the inning and getting a ground-ball out, Whisenhunt walked Bray-Doyle’s Jesse Harrell and Bubba Morris.

With two outs and runners at first and second, Harley Nelson delivered the winning run with a double that plated Harrell.

Central High attempted to make a seventh-inning comeback, but was gunned down as Wilson Nease tried to extend a double into a triple to lead off the inning. Whisenhunt singled to follow, but Byford shut the door with two strikeouts to finish the game.

Central High Forecast

The Bronchos enter the year as their first under new head coach Jay MacArthur. Central High is led by senior Wilson Nease, who will split time at shortstop and on the mound. Nease will be looked at for his on-the-field play, but also for his leadership.

“He’ll have to lead the team at the plate and on the field,” said MacArthur of Nease.

Michael Whisenhunt, who pitched against Bray-Doyle, will be needed to serve as a strong starting pitcher.

“He’ll need to throw strikes and limit his walks,” MacArthur said. “I think he can keep us in games.”

For Central High, the team is developing and trying to find time on the field. MacArthur said that the team has potential, but it needs to work on putting the ball in play and moving runners around to score.

Central High returns to the field at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at home against Sterling. The Bronchos host the Central Festival Saturday.

Bray-Doyle Forecast

After finishing 14-11 last season, Bray-Doyle returns junior Chris Byford, but lost three of its big contributors. The Donkeys will need to find replacements at the plate, but will lean on Byford’s success. Bray-Doyle is playing four freshmen along with two players who haven’t been on the baseball field since Little League.

Bray-Doyle also returns senior Cody Brown at shortstop. Brown is hitting in the 3-hole, and could give the Donkeys the senior leadership that they need.

“He’s a dependable kid,” Woolbright said of Brown. “He works hard and loves the game.”

Bray-Doyle travels to Dibble for a 4:30 p.m. game Friday, before returning home at 4:30 p.m. Monday against Elmore City.

Bray-Doyle 2, Central High 1

CHHS 001 000 0 — 1

BDHS 001 100 0 — 2

Central High — Michael Whisenhunt and Matt Miller. Chris Byford and Harley Nelson. W — Byford. L — Whisenhunt. 2B — Central High: Wilson Nease. Bray-Doyle: Nelson, Robert Jenson.

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