Under the direction of head coach Mike Rogers, the Centralia varsity baseball team certainly has a tough road ahead of it in pursuit of the Class 3, District 7, championship, but this teams ability to work its way around the base paths make it a tough draw this time of year.
Now that the ups and downs of the regular season are behind them, the Panthers, 11-10 overall, 4-3 Clarence Cannon Conference, are ready to rely on what they do best and start the postseason May 12 at 12 p.m. against Bowling Green, 4-10 overall. The winner of that contest then faces Hallsville, 13-4 overall, on May 14 at 4:30 p.m.
"We'd played Bowling Green early in the year and won, but that was early in the year. They have talent and are well coached so it will be a good game," said Rogers. "We've had a good year , we play a tough non-conference schedule and the conference is good all around. We've lost a few close games to some good teams. We have a good pitching staff and we hit the ball pretty well. We just fail to do the little things sometimes."
The injuries Centralia has suffered this season have ranged from minor to major and everywhere in between. This includes early season shoulder pain that Quenton Foster seems to have put behind him, ankle and knee injuries of varying degrees to three different seniors and a fractured ankle by Brett Huffington that's caused him to missed the majority of 2018 instead of playing a major role in the starting lineup.
"We pitch, play defense, and hit the ball pretty well so we can be a dangerous team to face this time of the year. We're doing the big things well and the small things poorly; Making too many mental errors," Rogers said. "We've talked a lot this year about finding the line between aggressive and smart. Sometimes we try to be too aggressive on the base paths offensively and defensively."
For host Montgomery County, 10-5 overall, the postseason commences May 12 at 2:30 p.m. against Elsberry, 3-7 overall. The squad that comes out ahead in that contest advances to play North Callaway, 14-11 overall, 9-1 EMO, on May 14 at 7 p.m. and the finals are slated for May 16 at 5:30 p.m.
"Hallsville is the team to beat in this district. They are solid and well coached," said Nirth Callaway coach Kevin O'Neal. "We Beat Montgomery County 10-8 in nine innings at their field , but we still need to improve our defense and cut down on errors. Ben Bradley is out for the remainder of the season. He was our best pitcher, but we still haven't called anyone up from the JV."
The Wildcats shouldn't be counted out, though. This team not only is just one year removed form the EMO championship, but this season Montgomery County defeated Elsberry 5-2 on May 2 and Bowling Green 10-5 on April 10.