Central tops Centennial, moves on to regional final

May 24—LINCOLN — Patrick Kennedy has toyed with the idea of a cut fastball this season.

The Champaign Central junior has worked with Maroons pitching coach Dom Erlinger on implementing the pitch into his workload when he takes the mound.

"It's really helped him," Central coach John Staab said.

Like it did Thursday. Kennedy threw a complete game and struck out 12, sparking fourth-seeded Central to a 3-1 win against fifth-seeded Centennial in a Class 3A Lincoln Regional semifinal game.

The Maroons (23-13) won their eighth straight game and will face top-seeded Lincoln (23-10-1) at 11 a.m. Saturday in the regional championship game.

"Dom was calling the pitches Thursday, so the two of those guys really worked well together," Staab said. "Patrick really mixed his pitches well. He and Dom had a great plan. Hats off to them."

Kennedy only allowed four hits against the Chargers (9-16-1), with Central scoring first to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning and then tacking on two more runs in the third to go ahead 3-0 before Centennial pushed across its lone run in the top of the fourth.

Along with Kennedy's pitching performance, Centennial senior Eli Schmitt fared well on the mound. He threw all six innings for the Chargers and scattered six hits, with 50 of his 65 pitches called for strikes. All of this on a sprained ankle.

"Eli was unbelievable," Staab said. "He was out there hobbling around, but you expect that type of effort from Eli. He's such a gamer."

The same is true of Central senior Chris Timmons. Timmons extended his single-season program-record hitting streak to 27 games by going 2 for 3 with a double, an RBI and a stolen base. Timmons broke the previous record of a 24-game hitting streak set by Eric Wilson in 2007 last week and has not slowed down as the Maroons eye their fourth straight regional championship.

"Chris has had one of the best offensive seasons in our program's history," Staab said. "He's just had a hell of a year."

Junior Luke McClure also went 2 for 3 with two runs scored and a stolen base to spark Central, while Charlie Hobbs and T.J. Pipkins each added an RBI in the win.

Now, Central will have a quick turnaround — and another lengthy bus trip to Lincoln after traveling roughly 120 miles on Thursday to play their nearby rival — before it faces the host Railsplitters on Saturday. Lincoln beat Central 4-2 on April 11 and will likely use hard-throwing right-hander Wyatt Mammen on the mound Saturday. He beat the Maroons in their matchup last month.

"We're familiar with him," Staab said. "He's a load, but we'll see what we can do."