Central’s baseball brothers pushing for playoffs
The seniors on the Central High School baseball team have played together for so long, they could almost claim to be brothers.
All 10 of them have played on the same teams since the eighth grade and six of them have played together since Little League.
“We are always there to back each other up,” senior Tanner Reid said. “It’s like we’re a group of brothers playing baseball.”
The Warriors (10-5, 3-3 Southwestern League) are focused on making their final season together special.
“I still think we can do it,” Reid said. “We need a couple breaks. We’re confident. When we step on the field, we’re focused and ready to play.”
Central begins its playoff push against Grand Junction (11-2, 5-1 SWL) at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Suplizio Field.
“To control our own destiny, this is a must win for us,” Central coach Chuck Yost said. “These kids (on both teams) have played each other so much, they know each other like the back of their hand. We’ve got to execute better than we did in the first game.”
Reid, Alec Rupe, Taylor Haynie, Aaron Reece, Derek DiThomas and Brandon Gracey have played together since they were Little League All-Stars.
“It’s a great situation,” said Rupe, the Warriors’ center fielder and leadoff batter. “We know what our teammates are capable of doing because we’ve played together so long. They are fun to be around.”
Alex Kitzman, Tanner Denton, Dane Barslund and Pat Lambert have played with the original six since eighth grade on a summer traveling team.
“We put together a traveling team and we all bonded,” Denton said. “When you play on a traveling team, you spend a lot of time in hotels, so you mesh pretty good.”
Their experience and friendship has made them an easy group for Yost to coach.
“They have a passion for the game,” Yost said. “They work hard and get after it at practice. I never have to get on them about working hard. They know when it’s time to turn it on. They are a fun group to coach.”
Their top seven hitters, all seniors, are hitting .333 or better.
Reid leads the team with a .463 batting average and 18 RBI after overcoming knee injuries early in high school.
“I love to play baseball,” Reid said. “I want to help the team win games.”
When Reid’s not playing third base and hitting in the three hole, he’s pitching.
Reid is 3-2 with a 5.09 ERA and one complete game in 22 innings pitched.
Kitzman, who is going to pitch at Otero Junior College in the fall, leads the team with two complete games and has 41 strikeouts in 282⁄3 innings pitched. He is 3-2 with a 3.91 ERA.
Rupe is hitting .362 with an on-base percentage of .500 in the leadoff spot. Barslund is hitting .440 with eight RBI. DiThomas is batting .426 with one home run and seven RBI in the No. 2 hole.
Denton, who signed a letter of intent with Antelope Valley (Calif.) College, is hitting .372 with 15 RBI in the five hole and Haynie is batting .386 with 10 RBI in the six spot.
“We can pretty much tell each other how it is,” Denton said. “We all know where our spot is on the team and what we need to do as a team to win.”