It's probably a good thing that Central and Red Bank don't have a baseball game to play on Thursday because they might be too tired to take the field.
These two teams squared off at Red Bank Wednesday night for the championship of the District 6-AA baseball tournament where the Purple Pounders had to win twice to claim the first-place plaque.
It took four runs in the top of the eighth for Central to claim an 11-7 victory in the first game while Red Bank scored 10 runs in its final at-bat in the second game to take the 14-7 win in the championship-clinching game.
The first game had started at 5 p.m. and it was almost 8 before the second game began. It was well past 11 when Red Bank coach Trey Hicks headed home. The second-year coach didn't get much sleep before the alarm clock sounded early Thursday morning, but he didn't care.
"That was a crazy two games on both sides of the field," Hicks said after his team had won for the fourth time in the last five games after enduring a 13-game losing streak.
"I still don't know how we scored 10 runs in the seventh as there's no way to explain it. I really didn't say anything between innings except to keep having fun. There are a lot of good teams at home right now that would love to be in our position, but I guess the stars are aligned for us this week.
"I was frustrated with the way we played in the first game, but Blake Winstead did a great job pitching in the second one. I told him that we needed at least four innings from him and he got us through the first out in the sixth. Central has a great team that beat us pretty good twice in the regular season. At this point, I'll take a win like this any way we can get it," Hicks added.
Central coach Glenn Carter tried to be upbeat when talking to his players after the second game ended. They were obviously very much disappointed with the outcome, but the season isn't over for the Pounders.
"Most of you guys were about five years old the last time Central advanced to the region," Carter began as he pointed to the runner-up plaque.
"We had to win three in a row to win this tournament after losing on Saturday and we fought our tails off. We aren't dead. We just didn't finish the race today. We could be at home right now, but we're moving on.
"This was like a 15-round heavyweight fight that went extra rounds. Red Bank hit it hard and they got key hits when they had to, but they're hot right now. We knew we'd have to play two great games to beat them tonight and we just came up a little bit short," Carter added.
The first game on Wednesday was a see-saw affair as Central scored in five different innings and Red Bank four.
The Lions had knotted the score in the bottom of the seventh with a single run before Central responded with four in the eighth for the winning margin.
Gabe Fomby had three hits in that first game while Ryan Poole had two, including RBI-singles in the third and seventh innings.
Six different Red Bank players had at least one hit in the first game
Hagen Wilkey drove in the first with a solo homer in the third while Gage Winton, Blake Turner and Johnny Goodman all had run-scoring singles.
Dominique Dawson was the winning pitcher for Central in the first game as he went the distance, allowing all seven runs on six hits while striking out 10, walking three and hitting one.
Raunel Perez started for Red Bank and retired one batter in the seventh before being replaced by Wilkey, who allowed a single before getting a double play to end the inning. Wilkey was tagged with the loss after allowing the four runs in the eighth.
The second game was scoreless through four innings as Central's Conner Plass and Red Bank's Blake Winstead matched goose eggs up to that point.
Central broke the ice with three runs in the bottom of the fifth, highlighted by a two-run single from Colton Morgan.
Red Bank countered with four runs in the top of the sixth as Wilkey led off with his second homer of the evening. Goodman added another RBI-single while Hunter Romans got an RBI on a groundout.
That 4-3 lead didn't last long as Central scored four times in the bottom of the sixth. Ryan Poole had the biggest hit, which was a single down the line in left that scored two runs.
The Lions were down to their final at-bat, trailing by three runs for the second straight inning. That's when they sent 14 hitters to the plate. The first nine scored before Central got the first out.
Wilkey and D.J. Hale both had run-scoring singles while Romans had a two-run double to drive in the final runs.
Wilkey earned the win in relief of Winstead as he got the final two outs in the sixth before slamming the door in the seventh.
Central got a leadoff single from Tyler Lowe and a walk from Jon Rievely to lead things off, but Wilkey got a pop from Travis Morgan for the first out before striking out the final two Pounders to clinch the win and the tournament championship.
Wilkey and Perez both had two hits for Red Bank as the Lions collected 10 in the second game.
Romans only had the one two-run double, but he finshed with four runs batted in with an RBI-groundout in the sixth and a bases-loaded walk in his first at-bat in the seventh.
Dawson, Poole and Colton Morgan all had two hits for Central in the second game.
Central will play at Sequoyah on Monday in the opening round of the region while Red Bank will be at home to host Polk County.
CENTRAL 201 300 14 -- 11 10 4
RED BANK 031 200 10 -- 7 6 4
Dawson and Poole; Perez, Wilkey (7) and Phillips.
RED BANK 000 004 (10) -- 14 10 2
CENTRAL 000 034 0 -- 7 9 3
Winstead, Wilkey (6) and Phillips; Plass, Lowe (6), Dawson (7), Clair (7) and Poole.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)