The MAIS Class AAA baseball state championship did not start the way Central Private was hoping and it didn’t finish much better.
By the time the Rebels stepped to bat for the first time Tuesday, they were already in a 5-0 hole to visiting Indianola, and with ace Josh Hill on the mound, the stage was set for a 10-4 loss in Game 1 of the final series.
The Rebels are accustomed to fighting back into games during their run to the championship the past few weeks, but not even a brief rally in the final at-bats could save them from defeat.
“I’m not worried at all,” Central Private shortstop Kale Fontenot said. “They pitched a better game, they played solid defense and they hit the ball. Tip your hats to the kids. We didn’t play bad. I don’t think we played bad at all. But they played a better ball game.”
Indianola wasted no time building all the run support it needed to take series opener.
It took Central Private (23-13) starter Gabe Spedale six at-bats to record the game’s first out, and by then the Colonels were leading by three and well on their way to victory.
The rough one-inning outing was uncharacteristic of the sophomore as a major factor in the Rebels’ recent hot streak in fighting off five elimination games. Spedale (4-4) won three straight entering the game.
Unfortunately, Tuesday wasn’t his night.
While better, the rest of the night wasn’t much more smooth for Central Private with Indianola recording a total of 10 hits to go with its 10 runs.
Reliever Trip Flotte stymied the storm for the next three innings, retiring eight batters in order before allowing a pair of runs in the fourth.
“That’s a good baseball team,” Indianola coach Clete Putnam said. “They fight and scrap and we’ve got our work cut out for us. I didn’t breathe easy at any point, I assure you. They’ve got a really good team.”
Central Private was able to get a few runs back throughout the night, but Hill never allowed them within arm’s reach of taking the lead.
Hill (7-5) gave up three runs on five hits, but the highlight of his night was the 10 strikeouts registered in the process. Hill might have gone a complete seven innings had he not reached the maximum number of pitches allowed under MAIS rules at 110 with one out in the seventh.
Fontenot was the most effective at the plate for the Rebels with a single, RBI triple and a run scored in four at-bats.
Fontenot was also part of a two-run rally at the end of the game that ultimately fell well short.
“We’ve just got to find a way to bounce back in those situation and we couldn’t,” coach Nick Scelfo said. “That guy was good. The Hill kid was real good. Credit to him.”