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Davenport Central's baseball team doesn't have a Division I pitcher on its staff. It doesn't have a big bopper in the middle of the lineup either.

Still, the Blue Devils have found a way to flourish this summer with throwing strikes and playing small ball.

The Mississippi Athletic Conference's leader in sacrifice bunts, walks, hit-by-pitches and on-base percentage collected its 12th win of the season Monday night with a doubleheader split against Muscatine.

Central clobbered Muscatine 12-2 in five innings in the opener before the Muskies responded with a 7-4 victory in Game 2 at Brady Street Stadium.

"It isn't all about hitting the ball out of the park," Central coach Chris Cartee said. "Sometimes, you've got to choke up, take a half-swing and hit the ball to the right side to help us win.

"I think instead of worrying about individual batting averages, they're learning what can I do to help the team? They're seeing those little things are winning some games for us."

The Blue Devils were 15-19 in Cartee's first season. After a dreadful start, Central peaked in July and lost a nail-biter to Cedar Rapids Jefferson in the substate final.

The postseason run invigorated the team into the offseason and through the first month of practice.

Central came into Monday batting a league-best .306 and had struck out the second fewest times of anybody in the conference.

"Just a bunch of role players doing what they can," shortstop Will Kranz said. "We had a lot of players returning from last year, but honestly, I didn't think we'd be doing this well.

"I'm glad we are and we're ready to spring forward from here."

Central used a six-run first inning to coast in the opener. The Blue Devils had two bunt singles in the frame, and No. 8 hitter Spencer Darland laced a two-run double.

Darland, in fact, was 3-for-3 with two doubles and five RBIs in Game 1.

"I made some mental adjustments with my approach from the the last game," Darland said. "In the batting cage, I was swinging as hard as I can, and I realized I don't need to do that.

"I eased up my swing, and it worked out for me tonight."

Eight of the nine spots in Central's order had at least one hit in the opener. Muscatine's pitching staff never had a 1-2-3 inning.

"We thought coming into the year we might be limited offensively," Cartee said, "so we're trying to be aggressive with our game plan and doing some different things to make things happen.

"So far, it has worked out for us."

Junior Caleb Evans pitched all five innings to get his second win.

Muscatine (3-10, 3-5) turned the tables in the nightcap. Drew Logel had three extra-base hits and drove in four as the Muskies never trailed.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Muskies.

"I haven't been hitting it well lately," Logel said. "We've been working on hitting the ball to the opposite field in the (batting) cages. I guess it worked."

Central could not produce the critical hit.

The Blue Devils stranded a runner in scoring position in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings. They finished with only four hits.

"The first game was good, but the second game we didn't execute as well as we should have," Kranz said. "We left that one out there."

Still, Central find itself just a game out of the conference lead at nearly the midway point. Cartee's squad was projected to finish sixth in the preseason.

The Blue Devils have doubleheaders looming with North Scott, Davenport Assumption and Davenport West.

"I'm happy with where this group is at right now," Cartee said. "They've put in a lot of time, wanted to learn and listen. It has been refreshing.

"That said, we've got a tough schedule and a lot of tough teams coming up. We'll see what we can do."

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Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.