ALBIA — It was the type of speed Robbie D'Amato would love to see from every Albia base runner during the course of the 2019 season.
D'Amato flashed that speed on Wednesday out of the third-base coaches box after what appeared to be a game-tying infield single was ruled the final out in a key inning for the young Blue Demons against defending state champion Centerville. Rather than tying game two at 4-4, Barrett Bonnett was called out by an eyelash at first base, allowing the Big Reds to maintain a slim lead on the way to a 6-3 victory in game two of a South Central Conference doubleheader at Boyd Brittain Field.
The win completed another SCC doubleheader sweep for the unbeaten Big Reds, who improved to 6-0 overall this season with five wins coming in conference play. Albia, meanwhile, fell to 1-7 with the losses including a 1-5 mark in the SCC.
"It was very hard not to finish out that last game and win it when we got a couple of runs in and probably getting a run across the plate that didn't count for us," D'Amato said. "That's a very good team we just competed with and almost beat.
"We had a lot of guys make some nice plays from guys who were playing in positions they haven't played at yet. Chaz Fee in the outfield, Logan Debrouse at second base and Barrett behind the plate were all seeing their first varsity action of the season. That's three guys that haven't competed in those positions on the varsity level that just helped us compete with the defending state champions."
Centerville answered an opening-inning run in game one, scoring five times in the second inning to take the lead for good. The Big Reds then held on after seeing a 4-1 lead trimmed to 4-3 as the Blue Demons opened the sixth inning with three straight hits including doubles from Ashtin Brand and Gage Wilson.
Wilson's RBI double came within inches of leaving the park for a three-run game-tying homer. After moving up to third base with two outs, Bossard hit a high chopper over relief pitcher Merrick Mathews. Kayden Kauzlarich ran in to field the ball from second base, threw quickly to first and got the call of an out that prevented Wilson's run from counting, sending D'Amato on a dead sprint out to the middle of the diamond to argue the call.
"I was very passionate in that moment. I was so happy for our team to come back and have a chance to tie the game, but I felt like we got cheated right at the end of that inning," D'Amato said. "One thing I tell our guys all the time is you can't control the umpires. They're out here trying their best and they're going to make mistakes just like we do.
"We're not going to get perfect officiating, but that's okay. No one is going to be perfect. Not even us."
Centerville continues to find success on the diamond, opening the 2019 season with six straight wins after ending 2018 with seven straight victories and the Class 2A title. Even so, the Big Reds have had to work hard to maintain their perfect record having rallied after allowing the opponent to score first in four of their six wins. The only two games that Centerville has scored first in were two of the closest games the Big Reds have played, an 8-6 season-opening victory over Bondurant-Farrar and Wednesday's victory that was finally clinched in the seventh by two-out RBI hits from Walker White and Myles Clawson.
"Baseball doesn't come easy," Centerville head baseball coach Ryan Hodges joked. "The guys definitely stepped up again and, again, made key plays in big spots. Everyone is going to give us their best shots this season, so if that doesn't get you excited, I don't know what will. You have to know that, especially in our conference, everyone is going to be gunning for us."
McCain Oden matched Brady Kauzlarich with three hits in game one, driving in three runs at the plate. Oden pitched a complete game on the mound, allowing just as many hits to the Blue Demons through six innings as Oden had collected before pitching around three more Albia hits in the seventh.
"I'll take a win over Albia any day," Oden said. "The fact that I can come out here and enjoy a win with my friends makes it fun, but it's even more fun that it's Albia. It's been a rivalry forever in everything we play against each other."
Albia returns to the diamond for an SCC make-up date at Davis County tonight before hosting Clarke on Friday. Centerville, meanwhile, will look to remain perfect facing Chariton Friday in SCC action at Pat Daugherty Field.