GREENFIELD — Opening the season with a conference doubleheader favors the ready.
Saturday at Greenfield-Central, the visiting Pendleton Heights baseball club proved the most prepared, and as a result of its 8-5, 4-1 sweep will take a 2-0 Hoosier Heritage Conference record into the second week of the season.
The Arabians tested the Cougars’ defense from the opening at-bat and led 13 of 14 innings. The Cougars, meanwhile, left 16 runners on base.
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“I thought, overall, we played well,” Greenfield-Central coach Robbie Miller said. “We just didn’t get the timely hit. In Game 2, we had guys on in all but probably one inning. We had the right people up to the plate, and we put it in play. But we hit it right at them.”
In the first game, small ball propelled the Arabians to an early lead, which they never surrendered. Five singles and three sacrifice bunts were part of the visitors’ first three innings, resulting in a 6-1 advantage off Greenfield-Central starter Seth Adams (0-1).
A second-inning error led to a pair of unearned Pendleton Heights runs. Other Greenfield-Central defensive stumbles, such as a third-inning miscommunication which resulted in a double-steal of second base and home by the Arabians, were costly.
“I’m not using it as an excuse, but we had a lot of kids out here who never played varsity baseball,” Miller said. “First couple innings of the first game, pressure got put on them. It didn’t turn out like they would like nor like what I would like, but we’re going to learn from it.”
Sophomore Drey Jameson collected a two-run home run for the Cougars in the fourth inning to make it an 8-3 game. And Tyler Mundell’s second double of the game highlighted a two-run fifth inning that closed the gap to the eventual final tally.
Reliever Spencer Hurt pitched two scoreless innings for Greenfield-Central, with help of a seventh-inning throw from Jameson in center field to home plate, where Greenfield-Central catcher Syrus Fletcher tagged out Corbin Cox trying to score on a Quentin Miller double.
Miller was the starting pitcher and threw four innings to collect the victory.
There was nothing small about the Arabians’ plate strategy in Game 2. A pair of doubles and a Miller two-run home run highlighted a Pendleton Heights four-run second inning, its only scoring of the game.
Greenfield-Central matched the Arabians with six hits, but the Cougars left eight men on base, including two each in the first, third and sixth innings. Down 4-1 in the top of the seventh (the Cougars were visitors on the scoreboard for Game 2), Greenfield-Central hit into a game-inning, bases-loaded double play.
“Baseball’s a game of when: When you get the hit and when you make the play,” coach Miller said.
Slater Rush delivered Jameson from second base with a single in the third inning for the Cougars’ lone run.
Cox and Chayce McDermott split six innings of mound work for the Arabians. Jameson took the loss for the Cougars, going five innings.
Jameson, a centerfield when not starting on the mound, led off both games and went 3 for 7 with a home run, double, three runs scored, two RBIs and a walk.
Mundell, a junior who manned left field in Game 1 and right field in Game 2, hit out of the 5 hole and went 2-for-3 with two doubles to start the day, and 0-for-4 in Game 2.
One of Mundell’s doubles as a sharp blast that pelted the scoreboard, just a foot or so shy of joining Jameson in home run club.
“I told him, ‘You hit the tar out of the ball in the first one, and the second game you kind of struggled. But that’s baseball. It’s just part of it,’” Miller said.
The Cougars were scheduled to visit Lawrence North on Monday evening, with a return home today against Roncalli. They’ll host New Palestine (2-0, 2-0 HHC) Friday in another Hoosier Heritage Conference doubleheader.