At the beginning of the season, Madison Central was really not considered one of the top contenders in the always very competitive 11th Region.
And with good reason. The Indians lost 10 seniors — which made up most of their lineup — from a squad that won 33 games, a regional championship and advanced to the KHSAA State Tournament.
The Indians (29-6) will look to repeat as 11th Region champions when play gets under way Monday at Lafayette High School in Lexington.
The draw for the tournament was held Saturday morning.
“We have the same mindset as last year,” Central senior Seth Richardson said. “We believe we can beat anyone. I think we play hard enough to win every game. It just comes down to making the plays. We always show up around tournament time. So, hopefully we will again this year.”
Central is ranked No. 6 in the most recent Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association Poll and has the most wins of any team in the region.
The Indians’ seven seniors — Joseph Holbrook, Ryan Gordon, Kyle Kelsey, Kameron Presnell, Seth Richardson, Trey Sexton and Josh Wright — have emerged as leaders and have the led the team to 10-1 record against 11th Region competition.
“We’ve played together since we were little. We are all best friends and we hang out together off the baseball field,” Gordon said. “We’ve come together as seniors and tried to lead the team the best we can. I think it’s worked out.”
The Indians had no trouble rolling to another district title earlier this week. They beat Model, 10-1, in the semifinals, then defeated Madison Southern, 8-3, in the title game.
Just before the start of the district tournament, the team received some bad news.
On Sunday, junior first baseman Jared Grant was injured in an ATV accident and had to be taken to the hospital. He suffered a broken arm, which will keep him off the field for the rest of the season.
“We were scared. We didn’t really know the details at first,” Richardson said. “We went and visited Jared (after the win over Model) and everyone got to talk to him and tell him that we love him and that we were praying for him.”
Grant won’t be in the lineup Monday when the 11th Region Tournament gets under way, but he will be in uniform and in the dugout with his team.
“He may not be at first base or in the lineup, but he’s still a huge part of this team,” Sexton said.
Grant was hitting .375 this season with two home runs.
The Indians have a team batting average of .309 and have several other players hitting better than .300 — Holbrook, Josh Wright, Richardson and Gordon.
Central’s deep pitching staff has been a big reason for the team’s success this season.The Indians have allowed just 88 runs, the second-fewest in the 11th Region. Central pitchers have given up two or fewer runs in 24 of 35 games (69 percent).
For the season, the Indians have a 1.54 earned run average with 215 strikeouts and just 74 walks. Sexton has a team-best eight saves and a 1.00 ERA. McKinley Sewel and Keegan Naugle both have ERAs below 1.00. “We’ve got a ton of guys,” Sexton said of the Central pitching staff. “Any of us can get it done. None of us are scared. We can all get it done.”
In the final week of the regular season, the Indians got it done on the road against some of the best teams in the region. Central picked up wins over Dunbar, Lexington Catholic and Henry Clay in Lexington. The Indians will face either Lexington Catholic, Henry Clay or Franklin County in the opening round of the 11th Region Tournament.
But, before Central opens tournament play, the team is set to take part in what has become an annual tradition. On Saturday night, the Indians will gather at Gattitown in Lexington for some fun and games, then the team will go watch a movie together.
“It’s a family thing,” Sexton said. By Nathan Hutchinson