Heavyweight fightPublished 12:06am Saturday, April 26, 2014
Charles Henderson outslugs Alabama Christian en route to second-round sweep
Derek Irons had to sit down and take it all in Friday night.
Irons was so taken back from what he had seen from his Charles Henderson Trojans, that he had to field questions from reporters sitting on the team ice chest.
Charles Henderson picked up a walk-off three-homer from Chase Smartt to claim game one 5-3, and then rallied in the top of the seventh of game two to take the series sweep over Alabama Christian with a 10-6 win.
The Trojans entered the seventh inning of the second game trailing 6-5, but quickly came out swinging.
Xavius Burden doubled on a line drive down the left field line to bring home the tying run. Following an intentional walk to Nick Lewis, Charles Henderson went to small ball to push the go-ahead run across.
Chase Hartley put down a perfect bunt that allowed the go-ahead run to score and him to reach first safely.
“Offense is so much more than hitting,” said Irons. “We have some guys down in the order that can handle the bat really well. We try to put pressure on the defense, and good bunts can do that. Hartley and Cole Wilson executed perfectly in a big situation for us.”
Reilly Fox would drive in two more runs later in the inning with a hard single through the left side of the infield.
In total, Charles Henderson sent 10 batters to the plate, pounded out five hits and scored five huge runs.
“I don’t think I can really put in to words how extremely proud I am of this team,” Irons said. “Good teams find a way to win close games against quality opponents, and that is what they did tonight. ACA is a tremendous baseball team, and this series felt like it a semi-final series.”
Hartley earned the win in a relief effort after coming in to the game in a crucial situation.
ACA had strung together four consecutive singles in the bottom of the fifth, and plated two runs to take a 6-5 lead. Hartley entered the game with the bases loaded and only one out, but got a pop fly to the first baseman and a huge strikeout to get out of the jam.
“If they get a base hit there, then they are really able to stretch the lead out,” said Irons. “Hartley comes in and gets a pop out and then strike out Chandler Taylor, who may be the best hitter in the state, to keep us in it and give us a chance to do what we did in the seventh.”
Hunter Baggett went 3-for-4 in the game with a double and RBI to lead Charles Henderson at the plate. Fox and Hartley had two RBIs apiece for the Trojans.
In game one of the day, Chase Smartt hit a three-run, walk-off homer to give the Trojans the first win of the day.
ACA scratched out of an early two-run hole to take a 3-2 lead to the bottom of the seventh inning.
A leadoff single from Hunter Baggett and an error by the shortstop set the stage for Smartt to deliver the game-ending homer.
Smartt sent the 1-0 offering to left center just clearing the fence, and giving the Trojans a big win in game one.
“Chase likes to play in those situations,” said Irons. “He is a big-time player, and likes to have a chance to make big-time plays.”
John Michael Stephens earned the win on the hill, throwing all seven innings and striking out six along the way.
Stephens drew praise from Irons.
“John Michael did what John Michael always does,” Irons said. “He dominated the strike zone and kept us in the ball game. Without him battling like he did, and the same goes for Xa Burden in game two, we never get the chance to do what we did.”
With the win, Charles Henderson advances to the quarterfinals of the Alabama High School Athletic Association playoffs for the second year in a row.
The Trojans will meet Bibb County in the third round. The Choctaws, located in Centreville, knocked off Jemison 4-3 and 10-0 Friday night.
The quarterfinal matchup between the Trojans and Choctaws is set for a 4 P.m. first pitch from Choctaw Park in Centreville.