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Prep baseball: Centralia fends off late River Ridge rally

Mar. 16—BOX SCORE

At Wheeler Field

TIGERS 14, HAWKS 13

River Ridge 301 013 5 — 13

Centralia 322 115 X — 14

Centralia Pitching — Sprague 4 IP, 2 H, 4 R (3 ER), 3 BB, 8 SO; Gunsolley 1 IP, 0 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO; Ballard 1 IP, 1 H, 3 R (0 ER), 2 BB, 2 SO; Leedy 1 IP, 2 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 2 SO. Highlights — Leedy 3-3, 2 2B, 4 RBI, 4 SB; Sprague 2-4, 2 RBI; Seymour 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI.

Most of the faces on Centralia High School's baseball team personified the feeling of disbelief and disappointment when the final out was recorded on Friday night.

After its first victory of the season.

Yet it almost wasn't.

River Ridge, a Class 3A opponent, nearly mounted a six-run comeback in the top of the seventh with two outs, but an infield popup with the tying runner in scoring position allowed the Tigers to barely escape Wheeler Field with a 14-13 win.

"Part of it is second game of the season, every guy we threw today was their first outing of the year," Centralia coach Jake LeDuc said. "A little bit of nerves. We just have to continue to be us."

After relief pitcher Jon Leedy recorded the first two outs via strikeout in the seventh, things started to unravel.

He walked the bases loaded, then gave up back-to-back two-run singles to see the lead go from six to two. Then a delayed double steal brought home the fifth run of the frame.

All of a sudden, the Tigers were a strike away numerous times in the inning of walking out with a multi-run lead to escaping by the skin of their teeth.

That was the main reason why LeDuc was frustrated afterwards. River Ridge notched just five hits on the day, but free passes and a lot of stolen bases — 15 of them — allowed the Hawks to keep it competitive.

"I feel like, more than once, we celebrated before this thing was over," he said. "We need to win a game first then we can celebrate. Every team is going to give a fight; we have to finish somebody."

Centralia (1-1) used a five-run sixth to take control of the contest as Leedy broke the inning open with a two-run base hit. The Tigers leadoff hitter finished 3-for-3 at the plate with four RBIs and reached base all five times.

Twelve times did Centralia get a runner on base either by a walk, error or hit batter. It took advantage each time, scoring at least one run in all six innings.

"We had guys on all the time and I want to run the bases aggressively," LeDuc said. "I was happy with them buying into those things."

River Ridge came out firing on all cylinders with a three-run first behind a pair of hits. The Tigers responded with three runs of their own in the bottom half and took the lead with two more in the second.

They never trailed the remainder of the game. They added two runs in the third and a tally in the fourth and fifth frames.

Brady Sprague and Blake Seymour each went 2-for-4 with two RBIs for Centralia. Sprague earned the win on the mound, striking out eight batters.

"I was proud of our approach to start the game," LeDuc said. "When we stayed with our approach, we hit balls hard and we ran the bases well."

When the first pitch was thrown, Centralia had just 10 guys in the dugout. Numbers are down for LeDuc this spring with just 25 total guys on the roster. He had 10 of his players play in the JV game on Friday.

Still, he does have 10 seniors that provide leadership and competition for the underclassmen.

"They expect to be good," LeDuc said.