EDDYVILLE — Head coach Ryan Hodges has a checklist that is posted in the Centerville baseball dugout before every game.
— Big inning.
— Answer back.
— Score first.
— Score with two outs.
— Extend the lead.
It took awhile on Friday night for the defending 2A state champions to check almost every box, twice, at Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont. While the Big Reds failed to be the first ones on the scoreboard in either game, Centerville battled back with big innings, extended leads in each game and scored five times with two outs in a South Central Conference sweep of the Rockets.
Centerville took game one, 5-3, then scored seven times in the seventh inning of game two to earn a 10-4 victory. The Big Reds have now won 10 straight games dating back to last year's six-game run that led the Big Reds to the program's third state title.
"We keep that check list up there as way to keep the guys battling and focused. That's what the guys did. They overcame some adversity," Centerville head coach Ryan Hodges said. "We've had a little bit of a problem early in the season with starting slow in games. Being off for 10 days, our bats were a little slow getting going. Once we got them going, it was all hands on deck and the guys were ready to go."
EBF (5-1, 3-1 SCC) prevented Centerville from checking every box on their list in game one. Kalen Walker scored on the first of Klyn's three-RBI hits in the doubleheader in the botom of the first inning to put the Rockets up 1-0.
After allowing EBF to open a 2-0 lead on a fielding error in the second, Centerville finally got to Rocket opening-game starting pitcher Jared McCrea. Otis Williams had the first Big Red hit of the day and would score the first of three runs in the third on an RBI single by Kayden Kauzlarich, cutting EBF's lead to 2-1.
After a walk to McCain Oden, Merrick Mathews tied the score with an RBI hit. Walker White then put the Big Reds ahead with the first of two straight two-out run scoring hits for the Big Reds' designated hitter.
"The thing with our group of guys, we just preach to them all the time to adapt and adjust to any situation," Hodges said. "You do what you can do. We continue to work and worry about what we can worry about with our club. We don't get too wrapped in what the opponent is doing. We try to compete against ourselves."
White's second two-out RBI hit helped Centerville (4-0, 3-0 SCC) extend its opening-game lead to 5-2 before Klyn cut the lead to 5-3 with a solo homer in the fifth. The Rockets brought the tying run to the plate in each of the final three innings against Big Red relief pitcher Merrick Mathews, who retired Trey Moore on a line out to left ending the fifth, forced D.J. Stout into an inning-ending groundout in the sixth and coaxed a double-play groundout off the bat of Jaden Herr in the seventh.
"Most of our guys are two to three-year starters. They've also played on a boys basketball team that didn't lose a conference game for two years," EBF head baseball coach Thomas Hallgren said. "I don't think our guys need to learn how to win games like these. There were things in the middle of the games that could have gone better for us."
Centerville seemed poised to score first in game two, collecting three hits off Logan McCrea including a double by Mathews, but failed to push a run across after McCrea struck out White. Walker scored the first of two runs in game two for EBF on an RBI single by Klyn in the bottom of the first. Reilly Flaig's RBI single in the second snapped a 1-1 tie before a pair of Big Red errors allowed Walker and Herr to score in the third, giving EBF a 4-1 lead.
"We got the lead, but we didn't do enough to extend the lead," Hallgren said. "Centerville is a team that expects to win, but I think our guys have the same expectations."
McCrea worked around Centerville hits in the third and fifth, but ran into trouble in the sixth after walking three batters and giving up an RBI double to Kolby Micetich. Klyn kept EBF up 4-3 by striking out the side in relief, but allowed four more hits in the seventh as the Big Reds scored six straight runs with one out including a tiebreaking RBI single by Kaleb Cochran and a team-leading fifth hit in the doubleheader for Brady Kauzlarich.
"When you get into these conference doubleheaders, you always hope to get at least one win," Hodges said. "If you can get a sweep, that's even better."
Centerville's next SCC road doubleheader is set to take place on Wednesday at the Monroe County Sports Complex against Albia. EBF, meanwhile, will be right back on the diamond today hosting Pella Christian, Pekin and North Mahaska in a four-game home tournament starting at 10 a.m.