PHENIX CITY — Central-Phenix City senior left fielder P.J. Ramsey said the uncertainty that has underlined the last few days has forced the team to go into a win-now mode. With one game to go before the AHSAA’s unexpected play stoppage, the Red Devils showed they were determined to go into the break as winners.
Central took care of business Saturday, as the Red Devils held Saraland to one hit and poured on six runs late to top the Spartans 10-0 in six innings. The victory was a welcome sight for the Red Devils, who now have to wait at least two-and-a-half weeks due to all Alabama public schools closing because of coronavirus concerns.
“I think (the difference today) was just a combination of things,” Central coach A.J. Kehoe said. “We gave them a lot of different looks. We were on our fourth game of the weekend, so it was kind of ‘Johnny Whole Staff,’ so to speak. Our guys did a great job of going out there, getting ahead in the count, forcing some ground balls early, and playing good defense behind our arms.”
While the Central pitching staff, which used five players in the win, held Saraland at bay, the offense chipped away at the Spartans before finally breaking through in the final half-inning of action.
The Red Devils jumped on top in the bottom of the second when a rundown between first base and second allowed second baseman Cole Kehoe to score, leaving the Red Devils with a 1-0 lead. Kehoe stretched the lead to 3-0 one inning later on a two-RBI single past second base to give Central a three-run lead it held for three innings.
“I’m sure every hitter would tell you this — it’s got a lot to do with timing. I just felt like I was on time with everything. I saw the ball well and put a good swing on it,” said Cole Kehoe, who was 4-for-4 with three RBIs. “I just felt like we all had competitive at-bats. We didn’t strike out a lot and we put the ball in the play for the majority of the game.”
Central added another run on a rundown defensive lapse by the Spartans when Ramsey scored in the fifth to create a 4-0 contest. The home team officially put the game away in the sixth, as nine batters came to the plate and J.J. Graham delivered a de facto walk-off RBI single to put the final stamp on a 10-0 win.
The win closed the book on what is at best an unplanned first half of Central’s season and at worst the premature close to its 2020 campaign. Cole Kehoe called the last few days a roller coaster as the team watched several professional and amateur levels of sports end their seasons and patiently waited to see what the AHSAA would do.
“Thursday you start having some of the NCAA stuff come out. You’re left uncertain,” Cole Kehoe said. “There’s some frustration to go along with it — and understanding of course where everything is coming from. We just had to take it one game at a time and play every game like it’s your last.”
The Red Devils — just like all the other teams in Alabama — are officially playing the waiting game until the AHSAA and the state announce what’s next. The Central coaches cannot work with the team during the time off, leaving AJ Kehoe to optimistically hope his players put in their own time to get better during the break.
Central showed on Saturday it was clicking on all cylinders against a top-tier Class 6A opponent. Now, the Red Devils are left waiting and hoping the win wasn’t their last of the spring.
“All we can do is just to pray to God and just hope that the coronavirus and all that stuff clears up,” said Ramsey, who was 2-for-3 with an RBI. “We just need to do whatever we need to so we can get back playing.”