MADISONVILLE, Texas (KTRE) - The last time the Central Bulldogs made the regional final in baseball was 1983. That was the year the Bulldogs won state.
The Bulldogs are two wins away from making their first return trip to state in 36 years after they swept Troy in the regional semifinals.
The sweep was not easy. Troy took a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning and it stayed that way until there were two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
“We battle to the last pitch,” Coach Richard Neighbors said. “We just throw down. We are going to take what they give us. We will take the walk and we will drive it if they go down the middle of the plate.”
The rally started with Jacob Davis hitting a ground rule double to advance a runner to third. Troy would then walk the always dangerous Cade Graves to load the bases.
Wearing a cast after breaking his arm earlier in the playoffs, Rylan Redd also drew a walk to bring in a run to make it 3-2. Aaron Sprinkle then took another walk to bring in one more run to make it 3-3.
I couldn’t get lost in the moment," Neighbors said. “The kids stayed in so I had to stay in it. This was not the first time this year that we have done it so I was not worried or surprised.”
The next batter was Bryce Case and one the first pitch he sent a line drive to left allowing two more runs to score to make the comeback complete and take a 5-3 lead.
All that was left was for Dylan Cloonan to come in for the save in the seventh inning.
“All the credit goes to the kids,” Neighbors said. They battled all night."
Jack Lee was at the game tonight with a big smile on his face. He might be the biggest fan of the team. He is also the coach of the 1983 team that won state.
“It means a ton to be able to go to the regional finals for the first time since he did,” Neighbors said. “I work with Jack lee every day. To know I am in rare company with that guy means a ton.”
Central will play either Kirbyville or Clifton next week in the 3A Region III Final for the right to go to state.