Central's Purple Pounders withstand Red Bank rally in District 6-AA baseball game

Central's Purple Pounders withstand Red Bank rally in District 6-AA baseball game

April 9th, 2014 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps

Teammates and coaches congratulate Dakota Fowler, 4, on pulling out the win for Central against Red Bank on Tuesday.

Photo by Erin O. Smith/Times Free Press.

Brett Hardy pitched a no-hitter for four innings, but all he could do in the seventh was wipe the sweat from his brow as Red Bank made a stiff comeback push in the District 6-AA baseball game.

Hardy left the mound in the seventh with a two-hitter and his Central Purple Pounders holding a 5-0 lead.

Red Bank scored four in the bottom of the seventh and had the tying run in scoring position when reliever Dakota Fowler, the Pounders' offensive leader, finally got the last out to nail down a 5-4 victory.

"We were fortunate. They just ran out of outs," Central coach Glen Carter said. "They put up a fight. We just withstood the punches."

He would have been sorely disappointed to have wasted the effort by Hardy, who wound up with 11 strikeouts.

"He throws well. We're still trying to develop a third pitch, but his velocity was good and he was locating it pretty well. He's done well for us all season," Carter said.

Hardy has suffered with a lack of support in earlier games, and his sole interest was suppressing Red Bank's bats.

"My curveball was working pretty good, and my two-seam [fastball] was breaking in," he said. "It was more control than speed."

Red Bank coach Trey Hicks said Hardy was pounding his fastball early and getting ahead in the count, putting pressure on his Lions hitters.

It came down to Fowler, who entered the game with two on and no outs. He managed to survive and preserve the win. He did his best work at the plate with three singles in three trips, one of them plating a run.

"I got nervous in the seventh, but Dakota came in and did his job," Hardy said.

"We haven't been hitting the ball well lately," Carter acknowledged. "We scratched across a run in the third and were fortunate enough to get three in the sixth."

It was a big win for the Pounders because of the district race. Going into Tuesday night's games, Hixson was undefeated while Central and Tyner had one loss apiece. Red Bank had two losses.

"It gives us a little breathing room between us and Red Bank, but we're playing them again tomorrow and that one will be just as important," Carter said.

Hicks was disappointed, especially when his club was looking at a near must-win situation for district tournament seeding purposes, but he was proud of the comeback attempt.

"We didn't do much with the first 18 outs," he said. "We had chances to score, and I know at one point we failed to get down a crucial bunt. I was proud, though, of the way the guys fought in the seventh, even if it did turn out to be too little too late."

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him at Twitter.com/wardgossett.