By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
Both of the regular-season showdowns between long-time rivals Madison Central and Madison Southern lacked any drama.
In those games, the Indians out-scored the Eagles 26-2 on the way to a pair of mercy-rule victories.
But, when the teams met Tuesday in the championship game of the 44th District Tournament, things were much, much different.
“They knew we were here this time,” Southern coach Dusty O. Hon said.
Madison Southern took a 5-3 lead in the third inning and Madison Central had to rally to claim another title. The Indians got five runs in the fourth and got solid pitching from Kirt Caldwell and Jeremy Lakes as they rallied for a 9-5 win at Berea College.
The victory secured a seventh-straight district title for Central.
Both teams advance to next week’s 11th Region Tournament, which is being held at Don Richardson Field in Richmond.
“One of our priorities is trying to make sure that we stay up the whole time and bounce back,” Central senior catcher Jimmy Wright said. “We are probably going to be down in the region at some point. We’ve got to be able to bounce back.”
Central took a 3-0 lead in the first inning and appeared to be on the way to another lopsided win over the Eagles.
This time, Southern responded.
The Eagles scored four times in the second and added another run in the third off Central starter Trey Sexton.
In the second, Central committed three errors and Sexton hit two batters.
“There are just little things that happen in games and you’ve got to fight through them like we did tonight,” Central outfielder Jonah Kelsey said.
Southern starter Lucas Reynolds made that lead hold up until the fourth.
Ben Fisher, Chris Wells and Corey Mullins all had singles as Central re-took the lead, while Ben Morin added a double. The big blow of the inning was an RBI triple by Kelsey.
Caldwell, a senior, came on in the third and worked out of a jam. He pitched 3 1/3 innings and allowed three hits, one walk and struck out three.
“He did a good job,” Wright said. “He came out and threw strikes right away. He did the little things right.”
Central added a run in the sixth when Fisher scored on an error.
Lakes got the final three outs to seal the victory for the Indians.
Fisher was 2-for-3 with three RBI and three runs scored, Morin was 2-for-3, Kelsey was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI, Mullins was 1-for-3 with an RBI and Nick Kavanaugh was 1-for-3 with two RBI.
Griffen Norris had two of Southern’s six hits and drove in a run. Kenden Angel, Donnie Wyatt, Conner Buchanan and Adam Simpson also had hits.
Reynolds went 3 2/3 innings and allowed eight runs on nine hits. Lucas Owens pitched 1 1/3 innings, allowing one hit, one run and two walks, while Eason Shouse allowed one hit one inning of work.
Southern started the season by losing 10 straight and at one point the team’s record slipped to 3-26.
But, the Eagles finished the regular season strong, winning three of their final four games and are set to make their first appearance at the 11th Region Tournament since 2007.
“We’ve really improved,” Hon said. “It got to point where we were all really discouraged and we were making mistakes. We worked on them, then we’d have new mistakes. We went through that so many times. We had a real bad start to the season.”