KNIGHTSTOWN — Thursday night’s contest between the Greenfield-Central baseball team and the Class 2A No. 1 Knightstown Panthers was a seesaw affair.
At times, the game looked more like batting practice, as both teams crushed the ball all night. However, the Panthers notched a few more clutch hits down the stretch and earned the 14-10 victory.
The Cougars (4-11) produced double-digit runs for just the third time this season, but it was not enough, as mental mistakes kept them out of the win column.
“It’s just mental toughness,” Greenfield-Central coach Robbie Miller said. “They’ve got to get mentally tougher, and it’s my job to get them that way.”
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The Cougars showed fortitude early, jumping on the board first behind solid at bats delivered by the top of the order.
Right-fielder Dallas Pribble coaxed a first-inning walk and was quickly brought home by shortstop Slater Rush, who smacked a two-run home run.
Knightstown responded quickly, though. Greenfield-Central starting pitcher Nick Johnson escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the first but was not as fortunate in the second. In the inning, he conceded a two-run single that knotted up the game.
The Cougars provided him with some breathing room in the third, however, as they hammered home three more runs to take back the lead.
Leading off the inning, Pribble reached on an error. A walk put Rush on first and advanced Pribble into scoring position. Seth Adams then delivered a double that brought in Pribble to give the Cougars a 3-2 advantage.
Later, a pair of sacrifice flys by Tyler Farrell and Tyler Mundell brought in Rush and Adams, and the Cougars had their biggest lead of the game at 5-2.
However, the Cougars’ pitching and defensive woes continued, and they allowed Knightstown (10-1) to answer with six runs of their own to retake the lead 6-5.
“We put too many people on base for them,” Miller said. “We did not retire a leadoff batter the entire game, but the bottom line is even if we’re not retiring the leadoff man or throwing strikes, they got big hits when they needed to get big hits.”
The Cougars didn’t give up. Pribble drove in a run with a single in the fourth to tie the game again.
They had a chance to take the lead in the fifth inning, with the bases loaded and no outs, but were unable to capitalize.
“In the fifth we had bases loaded and nobody out, and we get one run,” Miller said. “And we get one run on a fluke, because our guy had a brain fart, and their guy had a brain fart.”
The Cougars one run in the fifth came after Mundell trotted home after a dropped third strike and wasn’t tagged out by the Knightstown catcher.
That would be where the Cougars’ scoring would end. The final three Cougar batters struck out and put an end to an otherwise high-octane game.
“Offensively, when you score 10 runs you should win a ball game,” Miller said. “Tonight, we just came up a little bit short.”
Despite the mental mistakes, Miller said he could point to a silver lining, which was that the Cougars gave a ranked a run for their money.
“As long as they compete I’m happy,” he said. “It’s not every week that you face the two number one teams in the state of Indiana.”
It will be a quick turnaround for the Cougars as they host the Brebeuf Jesuit Braves tonight for a doubleheader. First pitch for Game 1 will be at 5:30 p.m. with Game 2 to follow.
“I’m going to treat it as a conference doubleheader,” Miller said. “We’re going to throw our ones and twos, and we’ve just got to get better.”
The doubleheader against the Braves (10-5) begins a four-game home stand for the Cougars.