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Central Magnet baseball headed back to state tourney

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Central Magnet used a late offensive surge and aggressive base-running to edge out visiting Chattanooga Central 6-5 and win Friday's sectional game at Star*Plex on Friday.

The Tigers advanced to the Spring Fling state tournament next week for the fifth year in a row.

With the score tied 5-5 in the bottom of the seventh, Dylan Jenkins ripped a hard single up the gap, stole second, then came all the way home on a bad throw to third to end the game.

The Tigers had six stolen bases in Friday's contest.

"Stolen bases are a big part of our game," said Jenkins, who had 19 steals coming in to Friday's contest. "I saw the throw was going to be high and it went over the fence."

He said Pounders pitcher Walker Waters was working it away from Central batters early on, and "it took us a while to adjust to it."

"It was adjusting to the away fastball mostly," he said.

Waters carried a one-hitter through four innings, helped by solid defense, including two highlight reel catches by center fielder Andrew Bingham in the second.

Waters struck out two in the fourth and Chattanooga Central was leading 1-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth. That's when the Tigers finally got to him.

With two runners on, Parker Phillips hit a sacrifice fly to tie the score, followed by CJ Campbell's two-RBI single to make it 3-1.

But the Pounders answered in the sixth. Coty Reels got it started with a single and scored soon after on a collision play at home plate. Tucker Smith then hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-3.

Back came Central in the sixth.

Wes Duffield popped the ball over the shortstop for a single. He was replaced by pinch runner Connor Poff, who stole second. Tyler Hogue hit it hard to the second baseman, who looked to throw out Poff at third, but instead made a bad throw to first base that allowed Poff to come home.

With the score 4-3, Central's Joey Hughes ripped a hard grounder up the middle for an RBI that made it 5-3 heading into the seventh.

The Pounders weren't done. They added two of their own with RBIs by Reels and Waters to tie it up again at 5-5.

That set up the dramatic seventh inning. Jenkins started it with the hard-hit single between third baseman and shortstop. After a bunt attempt resulted in an out, he stole second.

Then with one out and Jenkins at second, Campbell hit a grounder that sent the pitcher Waters running to cover first base. Waters got the out at first base, then decided to try to throw out Jenkins at third.

Instead the ball sailed over the fence and Jenkins came on home for the game-ending score.

"I think that is how we have played throughout the year," Central coach Jason Patterson said of the aggressive base-running. "If you're going to play that way you've just got to keep doing it and put pressure on people, and it paid off today."

Patterson said going to state five years in a row "is big."

"I hope that five in a row really pays off next week -- the experience of being there," Patterson said. "I think winning one the way we won that one today made it special. ... It was good to win a tight game and just survive, because that is what next week is going to be about."

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Central Magnet baseball, Craig Myers
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