Even when their defensive game and pitching isn't at top-notch level, the Center Boys' (13-14 YO) bats are more than capable of making up for it.
In a game where the 'Riders' pitching allowed nine runs and their defense committed five errors, the offense still pounded the ball, producing 23 runs on 17 hits as Center advanced to the championship of the Boys State Tournament on Wednesday night with a convincing 23-9 victory over Livingston in five innings.
Center remained the only unbeaten team in the tournament with a spotless 4-0 mark. The Roughriders were then in a rematch with East Montgomery County Thursday in the title round. The 'Riders beat EMC on Tuesday night, 5-0.
The 'Riders went on to capture their second consecutive state title with a 12-1 win over East Montgomery County in the championship tilt.
Center, which had hit 14 home runs in its four games thus far in the tourney, accounted for four of them against Livingston. Caiden Rainbolt hit a pair, finishing the game with four RBIs and a 3-for-5 night at the dish. Adam Reeves belted a grand slam home run, finishing the game with six runs batted in as he went 3-for-5 in the game.
The other home run was hit by Colton McSwain, as he went 1-for-3 with five runs batted in, a pair of walks, a stolen base and three runs scored.
Center's Dalton Horton added a double, finishing 1-for-2 with a pair of RBIs, one run scored and a stolen base. Jack Ford also connected with a two-bagger, producing a 2-for-2 night, with two runs scored and another driven in. He was also hit by a pitch and stole a base.
Taylor Tomlin doubled and went 2-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and a stolen base and Kam Owens tagged a two-base hit, while scoring two runs and drawing a walk.
Alec Lucas had another hot night at the plate, producing a perfect 2-for-2 effort, with three runs scored. He also walked two times and received a 'free ride' to first when he was hit by a pitch.
Josh Burns went 1-for-4 with four runs scored, while drawing a walk and Tanner Murdock walked twice stole a base, scored and went 1-for-3. C.J. Garner also contributed to the victory.
Livingston gave a great effort before being eliminated from the tourney. Lead-off hitter Walker Tolar went 2-for-4 with three runs scored and two more driven in. Colton Parker went 2-for-3 with a run scored and Anthony Rodriguez picked up a single and was hit by a pitch in three official at-bats. He also scored once and drove in two runs.
Gregory Jeffries doubled and drove in two runs and Cody Rains and Darrel Matthews both had singles.
It wasn't a stellar night on the defensive side of the ball, but the Roughriders got the job done. Owens started the contest on the hill and picked up the win. In one-plus innings he gave up four runs on two hits with a pair of strikeouts and three walks.
When Owens started to fade, Tomlin worked the next two innings, allowing four runs on four hits with three strikeouts and a walk. Murdock finished the game by giving up one run on two hits with five strikeouts and a walk in two frames.
Chris Boothe was the losing pitcher, giving up nine runs on four hits with six walks in one inning.
It appeared early on like Livingston would give Center fits. But every time the 'Rider defense struggled, the offense picked up the slack. Burns, McSwain, Murdock and Horton all plated in the top of the first for Center as the 'Riders took the early lead.
Livingston pulled to within 4-2 in the bottom of the frame, but the Roughriders answered the challenge by scoring 13 runs over the next two innings to build a 17-8 after three innings. Burns found the plate three times in the first three innings, while Lucas, McSwain, Reeves, Horton, Rainbolt and Owens each scored twice.
Reeves cashed in his grand slam round-tripper in the second and Rainbolt had a solot shot. Rainbolt followed that up with another home run in the third, a two-run blast over the right field fence.
The fourth inning was the only frame that the 'Riders failed to score as Livingston cut the lead to 17-9. But a six-run fifth put the game out of reach as the contest was halted by the 10-run rule.