Central baseball vs Denham Springs: Conner Cassels

Central's Conner Cassels makes the long throw to first base.

DENHAM SPRINGS – Denham Springs certainly picked the right time to turn in a solid all-around performance.

Pitcher Tyler Evans, who was supported by two double plays, allowed just four hits in six innings. Then, the Yellow Jackets received a number of timely hits to defeat two-time defending Class 5A state champion Central 8-1 in the District 4-5A opener for both teams at North Park on Thursday.

“It is always a war when we play Central,” Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll said. “Tyler did a very good job on the mound. The kids did a good job at the plate. The key was getting out of the first inning without giving up a bunch.”

Evans got in trouble in the top of the first inning, walking Sam Kenerson and Brant Chauvin and committing an error on Dalton Aspholm’s bunt. With the bases loaded, Evans fielded a ground ball from Drew Lasseigne and started a 1-2-3 double play.

Central baseball vs. Denham Springs: Eddie Pezant

The ball bouces away from out of the reach of a diving Eddie Pezant of Central in left field.

Evans then ended the inning on an Eddie Pezant fly out.

“I just spotted up my pitches trying to get out of the first inning,” Evans said. “I got (Lasseigne) on a curve ball which was out and away. That was big to get out of the first. It got our team going and we stayed on top the rest of the way. We wouldn’t have been as pumped if we didn’t get out of that.”

After being given a 3-0 lead, Evans got into a jam in the fourth. Aspholm and Lasseigne singled to put runners on first and second. Expecting a bunt, Denham Springs put on a roll coverage. Pezant did bunt, but the ball went right to the charging third baseman Noah Juan and the runner was forced at third.

Evans got out of the inning when Nick Noble hit a ground ball to Juan, who started a double play. Evans allowed a run in the fifth on a single by Andrew Myrick and a triple by Kenerson. Chauvin popped out to leave Kenerson at third base.

However, the key hits started to come for the Yellow Jackets in the third.

Central baseball vs. Denham Springs: Dalton Aspholm

Central's starting pitcher Dalton Aspholm delivers a pitch against Denham Springs.

Matt Delaney walked and moved to second on Reese Smith’s infield out. Josh Preston gave Denham a 1-0 lead with a run-scoring double. Cade Doughty brought home Preston with a triple and scored on a wild pitch by Aspholm.

Denham Springs increased its advantage to 4-0 in the fourth with the big hit being a hit-and-run single by Hall. David Frye walked and, one out later, advanced to third on Hall’s hit. Frye scored on Delaney’s sacrifice fly to the right field.

The Yellow Jackets broke the game open with four runs in the fifth. A one-out throwing error on Doughty’s ground ball and a catcher’s interference call set up the inning.

Duhe and Hall had run-scoring singles. A third run scored on Evans’ ground out.

Denham Springs had six hits – two by Preston and two by Hall. However, four of those six hits drove in runs – one each by Preston, Doughty, Duhe and Hall. The losing pitcher Aspholm gave up all eight runs and five hits before being replaced with one out in the fifth.

Central (11-11) stranded seven runners – six in scoring position. The Wildcats had the bases loaded with two out in the sixth when pinch-hitter Deonte Dotson flied out to the centerfielder. Evans walked four and struck out five, while Doughty walked one and struck out three in the seventh.

“The first inning was deflating,” Central coach Mike Forbes said. “At the same time, it was just the first inning. We didn’t compete very well. If you don’t play hard for seven innings against a good team, that’s what’s going to happen. Denham played with more energy.”