Charles Henderson advances to baseball finals

Published 12:49 am Sunday, May 11, 2014

Charles Henderson celebrates its semifinal sweep of Childersburg with a dogpile. The Trojans are headed back to Montgomery to defend their 2013 state title. (Photo/Ryan McCollough)

Charles Henderson celebrates its semifinal sweep of Childersburg with a dogpile. The Trojans are headed back to Montgomery to defend their 2013 state title. (Photo/Ryan McCollough)

VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. – For the eighth time in the last nine games, Charles Henderson needed to find runs in their final at-bat. For the eighth time, they did it.

After rolling for a 14-2 win in game one, the Trojans picked up four huge runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to down Childersburg 10-6 at Vestavia Hills High School.  and advance to the Alabama High School Athletic Association 4A Champion Series for the second year in a row. The games were moved to Vestavia following a morning downpour in Childersburg that made the field unplayable.

“This group of guys has gotten everyone’s best shot all season long,” said Charles Henderson head coach Derek Irons. “It is so overwhelming to get there (championship series) once, let alone back-to-back. It is so difficult day in and day out to get everyone’s best shot and keep playing on. I am so proud of these guys, and there isn’t another group of players in the world I would rather have with me.”

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Charles Henderson led comfortably for much of the second game, but Childersburg rallied for three runs in the top of the six to tie the game. The Tigers poked three consecutive singles up the middle off Trojan reliever Austin Ingram, and then produced a monster double over the head of Charles Henderson centerfield John Johnson.

However, the Trojans didn’t flinch.

Charles Henderson “small balled” its way to four runs in the bottom of the inning. Reilly Fox sacrificed DeAndre Pitts to second, and Hunter Baggett moved the go-ahead run to third with a single to right. John Johnson then gave the Trojans the lead with a perfect bunt. Later in the inning, Charles Henderson earned some breathing room with a two-RBI single from Austin Ingram. Nick Lewis would drive in the Trojans’ final run of the game with single later in the inning.

Ingram went back to the hill in the seventh, and retired the side quietly with a fly out to center, a ground ball to short and pop out to first.

During the rough sixth inning, Irons stepped in front of the Trojan dugout and yelled to Ingram that he was the person he wanted in the game at that moment. Ingram said that instant was one of the biggest moments of the game for him.

“I am truly blessed to have the coaches I have,” Ingram said. “Coach Irons believes in me to the get job done, where most coaches would have pulled me after that bad inning. They have confidence in me, and I was able to get the job done. Watching Shaggy (John Michael Stephens, CHHS first baseman) catch that last out is something that I will remember forever.”

Johnson led the Trojans at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a single and mammoth three-run homer to left field in the fourth inning. The homer was Johnson’s second of the day, with one coming in the conclusion of game one, and his fifth of the season.

Irons loved what he saw from his two-hole hitter.

“That is what is great about the playoffs,” Irons said. “You never know who is going to step up and have that huge day. John hit two no-doubters today and really gave the guys a spark. Then he comes back later in the game and drops down a perfect bunt to take the lead. He keeps teams off balance because he can do so much.”

Johnson said he is seeing the ball well over the last few games.

“I have felt great the last few weeks,” Johnson said. “I have been seeing the ball great and it just looks so big coming in there. You can’t miss it. The guys in front of me are doing a good job setting the table, and I just want to drive them in.”

Charles Henderson will meet Ardmore in the state finals on Thursday. The first game is set for a 7 p.m. first pitch from historic Paterson Field in Montgomery.