GEORGETOWN — The first Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association/Prep Baseball Report Power 25 Poll of the season was released on April 4. Five teams from the 11th Region were featured in the rankings. Madison Central, however, was not one of them.
After graduating 12 seniors — six of which get the opportunity to play in college — from a team which lost in the region championship game in 2021, the Indians (28-7) certainly weren't expected to be a much of a threat to make another deep postseason run.
And the Indians did just what they weren't expected to do. Central claimed its third 11th Region Tournament title in the past seven seasons with a 4-2 win over Sayre (20-10) on Wednesday at Great Crossing High School. Hayden Robbins was 2-for-3 and had an RBI while Matt Johns delivered a big two-run double in the championship game victory.
The Indians will face the 4th Region champion on Thursday, June 2 in the opening round of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association State Tournament at the University of Kentucky.
Game time is set for 5 p.m.
"I'm just kind of speechless. I don't know what to say," Robbins said. "I couldn't have dreamed of a better situation. I'm so excited." In the championship game, the Indians had just six hits and had to battle back from an early deficit. Sayre went up 2-0 in the third before Central responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning.
Bryson Howell singled to start the rally. Keith Stewart walked and Johns followed with a smash to centerfield with tied the game. "It was a fast ball in the middle of the plate and if the wind hadn't been blowing in, it probably would have been a bomb," Johns said. "I'll take it anyway."
Central went in front moments later on a double by Bradley Poynter. Stewart scored on a single by Robbins in the fifth inning to give the Indians a two-run lead. Girard started for Central and went 3 1/3 innings. After pitching against Franklin County on Monday night, the senior allowed only four hits and two walks with two strikeouts.
Johns took care of things the rest of the way.
He went 3 2/3 innings, allowing one hit and one walk with two strikeouts. He retired the side in order in the seventh inning. "I came in the fourth inning and just knew the game was over," Johns said. The Indians opened the season on March 17 with a 5-4 loss to Sayre — which was ranked 24th at the time — in Lexington.
The rematch, seemingly, left no doubt who was the top team in the 11th Region. "We've come a long way," Robbins said. "To come back and avenge that loss (to Sayre) and get back to the region championship, it just feels great. I wouldn't trade this group of guys for anything and can't wait to go to state with them."
Central's six seniors — Johns, Girard, Robbins, Howell, Dylan Hatfield and Matthew Bryan — have been a big part of the team's success. Younger players, though, have stepped up as well. Sophomore outfielder Keith Stewart was 1-for-2 in the title game with a walk and scored twice. Poynter, a junior, picked up the complete-game victory over Henry Clay in the semifinals and five underclassmen were in the lineup on Wednesday against Sayre.
"It all started in the preseason. We worked so hard and it just came naturally," Central junior center fielder Gunnar Rhodus said. "That's why we are here today." Now, Indians move on to the next challenge. They will face either Russell County or Warren East next week in the state tournament.
"It's been a fun year," Roof said. "Hopefully, there is more to come." No doubt. By: Nathan Hutchinson