Cougars go deep to beat Guerin

GREENFIELD — What do you get when a 2014 Greenfield-Central softball team doesn’t graduate a single player, and the 2015 club sees an influx of young talent? The answer, Tuesday, was 14 players stepping to the plate against Guerin Catholic — in the first three innings.

After the Cougars’ starters pounded Guerin for nine runs in the first two frames, Greenfield-Central coach Jason Stewart sent a plethora of pinch-hitters to the plate, part of a process of closing in on an ideal lineup.

“It’s been weird, because I’ve never done this before,” explained Stewart, who played 19 girls total in a 10-2 victory. “I’ve never played this many kids this early. Because of the situation we’re in, we still have a lot of questions about what we want to do as far as batting order, positions.

“I think we’re starting to get a sense of it, so I think things will start to settle down.”

So far, the Cougars (2-0) of many faces have produced. A solo home run by Darcie Huber highlighted a three-hit, three-RBI day for the junior. Huber also had a home run in Greenfield-Central’s 12-2 season-opening win against Speedway on Monday.

Against visiting Guerin, Deena Miller went 2-for-2 with three RBIs before Stewart began substituting in the third inning. Starters Brie Whitaker, Morganne Denny, Makayla Durick, Erika Knapp and Codey Miller had one hit apiece, with Whitaker scoring three runs (with two walks) from the leadoff spot. Of the Cougars off the bench, only Sarah Morris was able to register a hit, a double against Guerin reliever Sarah Miller.

Greenfield-Central was on the verge of beating the Golden Eagles (0-4) by the 10-run rule but left the bases loaded in the third inning, then suffered a throw-out at home plate in the bottom of the fifth inning with a 10-1 lead.

“I’ve seen a lot of good things so far, but we’ve just got to learn to finish,” Stewart said. “You’ve got to be able to finish a game like that earlier than we did. We just lost focus once we got up big.”

Michaela Ballman tossed the first three innings for the Cougars without allowing a hit or run, and Sydney Williams threw four innings of three-hit ball. The duo combined for nine strikeouts.

Huber is the Cougars’ No. 1 pitcher and one of the veterans on a still relatively young team that counts Whitaker as the lone senior. Twelve of 19 varsity roster positions are held by underclassmen.

The Ball State softball commit, who was the designated player (hitter) Tuesday, said the team’s depth is a positive.

“It’s always good to always know you have someone there,” Huber said. “You have someone right behind you who could take your position. It drives you.”

Connersville will visit Greenfield-Central on Thursday in a matchup of Class 4A Sectional 9 squads. And the Cougars will host Warren Central in a doubleheader on Saturday in what could be one of the last looks at an expanded lineup.

“I tried to explain to them, we’re searching right now,” Stewart said. “People are going to get opportunities. But those opportunities are going to be gone, probably by this weekend. After this weekend, we come back (next week) against Westfield, who’s 5-0, and Noblesville, who is very strong. Our schedule gets tough in a hurry.”