Chris Patterson knows all about slow starts. He was mired in an early season slump that was a mirror image of the one his team was going through.
And Montgomery Central has often started its baseball seasons off slow.
Such was the case when the Indians found themselves winless after the first five games. But just as coach Todd Dunn finds a way to turn his teams around, Patterson rode a wave of success midway through the season that never really stopped.
After leading his team in hits, doubles, RBIs, home runs and batting average, and helping Central claim the District 11-AA regular season title, Patterson was named The Leaf-Chronicle All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.
The award was voted on by the newspaper’s sports staff, while the All-Area Baseball team was selected by the area athletics directors and the The Leaf-Chronicle sports staff.
“Chris is a special player,” Dunn said. “He’s got speed, he hits for power, for average and he’s about as good as I’ve ever seen defensively in center field. There’s not much he can’t do. He’s just special.”
But Patterson found himself locked in the grips of the inevitable.
“It’s going to happen,” said Patterson about his early-season slump. “If you’re a hitter, it’s going to happen. I just tried not to think too much about it. It’s frustrating when you’re in it, but you have to keep positive and continue to work and you’ll kick it.”
Patterson said he tried to recall his fundamentals. Nothing was working for two weeks until the Indians exploded with a 11-0 victory against Stewart County as Central was in the midst of an eight-game win streak.
The ball seemed to get bigger for Patterson as he showed why he was named the District 11-AA’s MVP. Patterson finished the season with .458 batting average, second in the county only to Northeast’s Dominick Veltri (.518).
He led the county in home runs with six and finished with 16 doubles and 47 RBIs. He also scored 38 times and had 61 totals hits.
“My approach has always been to be a contact hitter,” Patterson said.
“I’m not swinging for the fences because I think you don’t stay disciplined at the plate thinking like that. I just try to see the pitch and follow through with the bat.”
Central’s early-season struggles offensively forced the team to take stock.
Patterson said the team settled on becoming a strong defensive team with solid pitching and would be patient with its offense. In four of the team’s first five losses, Central scored 2, 1, 4 and 2 runs, respectively. Its one breakout game from the plate ended in a 13-12 loss to Clarksville Academy.
During the Indians’ eight-game win streak, Central scored 10 or more runs four times. In another four-game streak two weeks later, Dunn’s team scored 11, 10 and 17 runs. Central finished the season 18-13 and 8-1 in district play to the program’s first regular season crown since 2004.
“In previous years we really struggled to jell,” Patterson said. “The unity wasn’t quite there. But this year I thought we did a good job of developing team chemistry and it showed.”
The Indians went into the district tournament having won seven of eight games and lit up Creek Wood 10-5 before advancing to the district title game after a 5-2 victory in the semifinals against Harpeth.
Central would lose 13-2 to Camden to set up the “if-necessary” game where Camden went on to claim the district tournament crown with a 6-5 victory.
The Indians responded with an 8-5 victory in the region semifinals and lost to 7-3 to Spring Hill in the region title game. The season ended when Goodpasture claimed a 10-0 victory in the Class AA sectional.