Central continues sizzling start
CHAMPAIGN — John Staab isn’t about to label the current Central baseball team his best at the school, but the Maroons sure are giving him something to think about.
“We’ll wait until the end of the season,” Staab said. “They are off to a great start.”
Central improved to 19-1 Tuesday with a 3-1 Big 12 win against Centennial.
Nothing gets the Maroons more fired up than a game against their crosstown rivals. “The key is to try to not make it a big deal in the minds of the kids,” Staab said.
No problem. Phillip Swartz and Nick Brunson had it covered.
Sophomore Swartz (6-0) pitched a complete-game five-hitter. He struck out eight and walked three.
“I just stay calm and try to do what I do every game,” Swartz said.
It was his fourth complete game in a row.
“He’s pitched great,” Staab said. “We feel confident in him because he can get three pitches over for a strike. When he’s throwing his slider and curveball over, he’s pretty tough. He’s been great for us. I’m so proud of him.”
Brunson provided a big chunk of the offense for Central. The shortstop had three of the Maroons’ five hits and drove in a run.
“You always want to go 3 for 3 and have a great game, but sometimes you go 0 for 3 with three strikeouts,” Brunson said.
Not on Tuesday. Brunson helped with his glove, too.
“He’s a fundamental guy at short,” Staab said. “He’s not a rangy kid, but he does the little things well.”
Luke Beesley drove in a run with a double, and Lucas Wilson drove in the third run with a sacrifice fly.
Centennial opened the scoring with a run in the first. Dylan Grady led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, went to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on Brian Paul’s single.
But that was all the Chargers could do against Swartz, who pitched to contact with the wind blowing in and got plenty of defensive support.
Trailing doesn’t bother the Maroons.
“Our team has been down a couple of times, but I know we can hit well,” Swartz said. “We can always come back.
“We have great team chemistry. A lot of us have known each other for a long time. Nobody ever gets down. We always pick each other up.”
They tied the game with a run in the second, took the lead in the fourth and added an insurance run in the fifth.
“We’ve been there before,” Staab said. “Our kids are about the process and staying in the moment.”
Central won’t have to wait long to see Centennial again, visiting the Chargers on Thursday.
Schools pitch in
Kelsey Kaiser is a Central High School graduate, Class of 2011.
Her brother, Peyton Kaiser, is a senior at Centennial and a member of the Chargers’ baseball team.
The Unit 4 schools started their season baseball rivalry Tuesday at McKinley Field. The scene shifts to Centennial for Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. game.
Fans from both schools are working together on a common venture. Kelsey Kaiser, 20, is in a clinical study for patients with multiple sclerosis and has qualified for a stem cell transplant in the fall. Centennial will donate the net proceeds from Thursday’s concession stand sales to a fund to help the family with medical expenses.
A raffle also will be held, and individuals or groups interested in donating can give their tax-deductible contributions that night. Checks should be made out to CHS Baseball Boosters, with the memo line saying, “For Kelsey.”
“They’ll be ready for us, I’m sure,” Staab said.
Centennial pitcher Anthony Martin performed well, surrendering five hits.
“He’s tough,” Staab said. “We just got a couple of timely hits.”