CENTERVILLE – With sights set on competing against the best teams in the state come late July, Centerville head baseball coach Ryan Hodges set out to test his team with a schedule filled with tough opponents.
"When I make the schedule, I talk with our athletic director and base it on what our guys are capable of doing," Hodges said. "I guess I'm taking it on the chin a little bit."
Ninth-ranked (3A) Davenport Assumption, winners of 11 state high school baseball titles in the past 40 years, executed at an elite level on Wednesday against the Big Reds. Six straight hits in the third inning led to a breakout five-run rally that helped lift the Knights to a 9-1 non-conference win.
Assumption (10-9) may ultimately go on to win their 12th state title next month, showcasing that ability over seven innings both at the plate with 15 hits and in the field making several defensive plays that robbed Centerville of hits and erased Big Reds on the bases.
Hodges, however, felt his team helped make the Knights look even more elite.
"I think we definitely gave them a few more opportunities and made them look better than they are," Hodges said. "Maybe that's my fault as a coach. I thought we could compete with these guys. I guess the guys are showing that maybe we can't. We're going to have to get a lot tougher when we go up against top competition liks this. When we play teams at this level, we have to be ready to strap it on and be ready to go."
The Big Reds (9-5) matched the Knights by putting a runner at second base in each of the first two innings. Centerville might have scored a first-inning run had Assumption second baseman Jay Costello not made an incredible play fielding a ground ball off the bat of Brady Kauzlarich to open the game and throwing for an out on what appeared to be a certain lead-off hit.
Costello was just getting started, fielding a soft liner in the third inning to take a potential hit away from Kellen Johnson before grabbing a liner in the seventh inning off the bat of Kade Mosley before firing to first for a double play that all but ended any hopes of a dramatic late rally by the Big Reds. At the plate, Costello led Assumption with four hits, including an RBI single that drove in Max Stein putting the Knights up 2-0.
Kauzlarich, meanwhile, struggled against Assumption. After giving up five runs on six hits on the mound in the third inning, Kauzlarich had hopes of starting his own rally in the bottom of third with a hard-hit grounder down the third-base line that got past J.J. Stratman and headed into left field.
Kauzlarich tried to reach second base on the error. Instead, Assumption left fielder Noah Mack retrieved the baseball and fired to Roderick Tanamor, allowing the Knights' shortstop to put the tag on Kauzlarich for an opening out that would loom even larger after two-out extra-base hits by Merrick Mathews and Myles Clawson put Centerville on the board later in the inning.
"We just came out flat. I don't know what it's going to take to keep that from happening," Hodges said. "I'm excited every day I come to the park. When you come to the ballpark and you're not up for seven innings then decided, down eight runs that you want to get up, that's not fun.
"We're too good of a ballclub not to be up from the very first pitch. I know bad things are going to happen, but it seems like even when the good things happen, we don't get exciting. It's anti-climactic. Assumption came out, hit the ball, did things the right way. We have to start competing. We're just not right now and it's just not fun. We have to find a way to get back to having that fun this season."