Charles Henderson advances to second round

Published 8:46 pm Saturday, April 19, 2014

With a pair of wins on Saturday, Charles Henderson advanced to the second round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association baseball of playoffs for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons. The Trojans knocked of St. James 5-0 and 10-2 in rain delayed first round of the AHSAA playoffs at Riddle-Pace Field Saturday.

Game 1 – Charles Henderson 5, St. James 0: For four innings, Charles Henderson searched for a big hit to get things going. Each time a Trojan batter would lace a shot in play a St. James player was seemingly always in the right spot.

That all came to an end in the fifth inning.

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With two on and no outs, sophomore Chase Hartley showed bunt before pulling it back and hitting a hard line drive past the St. James first baseman. The ball took two hops down the line before nestling up against the chain link in the right field corner. The line shot allowed Wright Graning and Nick Lewis to score, and gave Charles Henderson a 2-0 lead.

“We called it, but that was all about 100 percent tremendous execution by Chase,” said Charles Henderson head coach Derek Irons. “He perfectly executed a play, one that we don’t run that often, in a huge situation. I think it got us going and allowed everyone to relax a little.”

Another Chase, junior catcher Chase Smartt, would deliver a two RBI triple of his own later in the inning. Smartt lined a ball past the diving shortstop and it rolled all the way the way to the fence in left center. The line drive allowed Hunter Baggett and John Johnson to score, and allowed pitcher John Michael Stephens even more room to work.

Stephens went the distance on the mound, and allowed just three hits. He struck out 10 and didn’t allow St. James player to get past second base the entire game. Irons expected Stephens to turn in a quality start because the lanky left hander has done it the entire season.

“I told our guys that I think we don’t give John Michael the credit he deserves,” said Irons. “He goes out and gets the job done day in and day out. He is so mentally tough. Even if we kick a few behind him, he keeps it locked in until we get the bats going.”

Hartley and Smartt led the Trojans at the plate with two RBIs each. Reilly Fox picked up the other Charles Henderson RBI on a sacrifice fly to center in the fifth inning.

Game 2 – Charles Henderson 10, St. James 2: Charles Henderson scored eight runs over the first three innings to put the game out of reach early on.

Austin Ingram singled in Hunter Baggett to start the scoring. Chase Smartt, who reached on a fielder’s choice, scored on a balk by the St. James pitcher, and Nick Lewis singled in Ingram. Following a single run in the second inning, the Trojans plated four more runs in the third inning.

Reilly Fox doubled in Wright Graning and Nick Lewis to get the scoring started. Cole Wilson and Fox would come home on a throwing error from the St. James shortstop attempting to throw out Hunter Baggett at first.

“It seemed like that hit in the first game got the bats woken up and got some energy in the guys,” said Irons. “For the next 10 innings after that hit, we scored 15 runs. Sometimes it’s just like that. We were able to ride that momentum in to game two. We had some really good at-bats, and hit the ball hard.”

Xavius Burden went the distance on the mound and handcuffed St. James to just four hits. Burden struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter.

Irons was excited to see Burden have such a good outing.

“You can’t ask for much more than that,” said Irons. “He had a complete game and gave up only a handful of hits. He, and John Michael, are seniors and both compete and play like seniors. It is big for us to be able to trot two veteran guys out there in the playoffs and in big games.”

Fox and Ingram led the Trojans in the second game with two RBIs a piece. Nick Lewis and John Johnson also had RBIs for Charles Henderson.

With the win, Charles advances to the second round of the AHSAA playoffs. The Trojans will play the winner of the Ashford/Alabama Christian series.