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9-run 1st drives Rebels

9-run 1st drives Rebels
9-run 1st drives Rebels
Rounding third base, South Central's Joseph Logsdon heads toward home plate last Wednesday. Photo by Brian Smith

The South Central Rebels entered the week at the top of the Class 1A baseball poll.
Their response? Stay back and keep driving the ball.
Last Wednesday, South Central unloaded a nine-run first inning versus visiting Eastern (Pekin) and cruised to an 11-0 victory on a chilly afternoon.
‘It’s a good feeling,’ South Central pitcher Parker Gabhart said of the quick start to games. ‘As far as pitching, it helps me a lot. I can let (opponents) hit the ball, and I trust our defense to make plays. When you score nine runs in one inning, it’s a lot easier to throw strikes.’
Gabhart was a key cog in the first, driving in four runs in two plate appearances. Facing Musketeer pitcher Dawson Petro, Gabhart said he kept his approach simple. Not an overly hard throwing pitcher, the slugger stayed back, waiting on the ball to reach his stick.
‘When we face slower pitchers, I make myself go opposite field,’ Gabhart said. ‘It’s so hard to wait sometimes. If I pull the ball or look to go opposite field, I still believe the ball will go.’
The approach was similar up and down the South Central lineup that accounted for six hits in the first inning. The Rebels also benefited from an Eastern fielding error and Alex Goforth drawing two walks.
‘We saw the ball well tonight,’ South Central skipper Brian McKnight said. ‘The top of the order was a little more patient and waited for the ball to get to them. They hit line drives. It’s simple, but, we still have some kids lunging out in front. We’ll get them figured out.’
Each of the first seven batters in McKnight’s line-up card scored in the opening inning.
Cory Ray led off the game with a single, then Nick Veith reached on a shortstop error. Once Goforth drew a pass to load the bases, Gabhart shot a liner to right, plating two.
Showing patience, Jack Turner drew a walk. Back-to-back singles from Logan May and Joseph Logsdon earned each an RBI.
Petro was able to strike out two straight batters; then, when he hit the top of the South Central order, more runs flew home.
Ray earned an RBI by drawing a walk. Veith drove in two with a single then stole second base. Putting a cap on the inning, Gabhart drove home two more, giving himself a comfortable 9-0 lead after one.
‘Parker is just a good hitter,’ McKnight said. ‘He’s really pounding the ball. He’s hitting the ball where it is pitched. Some guys want to always pull it, but he doesn’t do too much with the ball.’
McKnight said he was impressed with the adjustments to sit back versus Petro.
‘Sometimes kids have a hard time adjusting to off-speed because they are so anxious to hit,’ he said. ‘They are learning to sit back, adjust and trust their hands.’
The first time through the order was fairly smooth for South Central against Eastern’s lineup. Gabhart struck out five of the first nine batters. He finished the game with seven strike outs in five innings for the win.
Eastern’s first hit ‘ a Brant Stewart single up the middle ‘ came with two outs in the third. The next hit for the Musketeers ‘ a single down the left-field line by Petro ‘ didn’t come until the fifth inning, again with two outs.
Gabhart’s primary position for the Rebels is that of catcher but he has shown the ability to pitch.
‘It’s fun pitching,’ he said. ‘Usually, it’s hot and I don’t have to worry about gearing up (to catch), but, on these cold days, I wouldn’t mind it.’
South Central scored again in the second inning when Lucas Veith battled in an at-bat to drive in May with a single.
Nick Veith scored for the third time in the third inning when a stolen base and wild pitch moved him to third after beating out an infield single. Goforth brought his teammate in with a ground-out.
Although still in the early stages of the season, McKnight likes where his team is, especially on the mental side.
‘They are easy to coach and a great group of kids,’ he said. ‘Right now, they are having a good time and fun to be around. We’ll see what the pressure is like when we are in a one- or two-run ballgame down the road.’
Gabhart said he noticed quick improvements defensively since practices began.
‘We came out better in the field than I thought we were,’ the senior said. ‘There were practices where it looked questionable, but we’ve worked really hard. It’s shown in games. Hitting, it will come around, but we are starting games pretty well. Our younger guys are getting experience.’
Against Eastern, Gabhart finished with three hits while Nick Veith had two.
South Central will host Silver Creek tomorrow (Thursday).

Eastern (Pekin) 000 00 ‘ 0 2 2
South Central 911 0x ‘ 11 9 0
W ‘ Gabhart, L ‘ Petro.
2B ‘ Gabhart 2 (SC).