Madison Central ‘comfortable with the uncomfortable’ in 11th Region semifinal win

·4 min read
Silas Walker/swalker@herald-leader.com

Madison Central’s baseball program is no stranger to the big stage.

Neither is Bradley Poynter, a junior who issued 12 strikeouts in the Indians’ 6-2 win over Henry Clay in the 11th Region semifinals Tuesday night at Great Crossing High School. Poynter went the distance, helping put Central in the championship round for the third time in the last four tournaments.

He aided his own cause with a run-scoring double in the opening frame to put the Indians in front, 2-0, before the Blue Devils’ first at-bat. Henry Clay went down in order in that first appearance, during which Central set the tone defensively: a ball went into the body and past the glove of first baseman Matt Bryan, who promptly hurried into the outfield and corralled it for a flip to Poynter back at first to prevent a would-be-base-runner.

“You just gotta be comfortable with the uncomfortable,” Poynter said.

The Indians’ lead swelled to 5-0 in the top of the third on a two-RBI double by Bryan, a senior who missed a chunk of the season with an injury to his left wrist, around which he wore heavy bandaging. Before Tuesday, he hadn’t played a full game at first base since last season.

“He hit it hard, but I was like, ‘I gotta sacrifice my body for this one, I gotta get this ball,’” said Bryan. “I took it off the chest and it rolled a little bit past me, and I was able to scoop it up and get it to Bradley. It created a lot of energy for us.”

Bryan, by teammates and fans, is affectionately called “Bulldog,” or “Bull” for short. The nickname originates from his youth league days.

“I’m still short, but I was shorter,” Bryan said with a laugh (he’s about 5-foot-8). “I had chubby cheeks and I just kind threw hard and hit hard at that age. My coach gave me the name and it’s stuck with me my whole life.”

Henry Clay pulled to within 5-2 in the bottom of the third on a two-run double by Isaac Rone. After Central added a sixth run via an error in the top of the fourth, Henry Clay led off the bottom of that frame with two base-runners. They failed to advance either, though, and never managed another threat.

The Blue Devils (18-16) started Joey Howard, a junior who before Tuesday had pitched just two innings before hurting his arm in their season opener. They attempted to piece together a bullpen game in order to have enough arms available for a potential championship appearance, and for the most part put themselves in position to capitalize when afforded opportunities. They just couldn’t cash in.

“We had a couple shots to score more and couldn’t do it,” Henry Clay Coach Jordan Tarrence said.

Poynter pitched Central into last year’s title round. That appearance didn’t go well at all for the Indians, who were 8-1 losers to Lafayette. The Generals were a potential foe for this year’s final, but they fell, 2-1, to Sayre in the other semifinal on Tuesday.

Madison Central (27-7-1) will take the field Wednesday — weather permitting — with a chance to earn its 12 berth to the KHSAA state tournament.

“Last year definitely wasn’t a pretty sight,” Poynter said. “Nobody on this team liked seeing that happen to us. I think tomorrow, no matter who we play, we’re just gonna come out and play our game and try to win this whole thing.”

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