Cougars shine bright in win

FORTVILLE — In pushing the start time back 90 minutes to 7 p.m., the plan for the Greenfield-Central and Mt. Vernon softball teams Friday was to play under the lights, in preparation for possible evening sectional games later this month.

The Cougars’ hitters made quick work of the Marauders, however, and there was still plenty of baby blue sky remaining at the 8:27 p.m. end of Greenfield-Central’s 12-0, five-inning win.

“I challenged them to come out and make a statement tonight, and they did,” Greenfield-Central coach Jason Stewart said. “They swung it with an attitude.

“We’ve had too many girls just try to flip balls over the infield. We swung it with authority tonight.”

The Class 4A No. 11 Cougars (13-2, 4-1 Hoosier Heritage Conference) chased Mt. Vernon starter Kaitlyn Nugent from the mound in the first inning on six hits and five runs. Darcie Huber and Maria Kihega registered RBI doubles, with each blast bouncing off the yellow corrugated material atop the outfield fence.

Sara Pridgen took over for Nugent late in the first inning and finished out the game, allowing seven runs, including a solo home run by Greenfield-Central sophomore Morganne Denny in sixth inning.

“That’s one of the best hitting teams we’ve seen this year, absolutely,” Mt. Vernon coach Veronica Kirby said. “I was thoroughly impressed with their swings.”

Denny and Michaela Ballman each finished 3-for-4, while Huber was 4-for-4 with four doubles. Deena Miller and Sydney Williams had two hits each. Nine players scored at least one run, and the Cougars totaled 20 hits. Erika Knapp added a pinch-hit two-RBI single in the fifth inning to make it 12-0.

The depth of the Cougars’ attack will be crucial as the program chases conference and sectional titles, Stewart said.

“We haven’t hit well in conference,” noted the coach, whose club has HHC games remaining with New Palestine (12-3, 3-2 HHC) on Thursday and conference leader Pendleton Heights (10-3, 2-0 HHC) on May 12. “We hit like .240 in our first four conference games. And if you take away Darcie and Morganne, it gets real ugly.

“I told the girls we need to get people on base and force pitchers to throw to (Huber and Denny), and that’s what we did tonight.”

Huber was elite on the mound, as well, improving to 9-0 on the year with a three-hit, six-strikeout performance. Following third-inning singles by Mt. Vernon’s Sadie Baugh and Lauren Montgomery, the Ball State commit retired seven straight Marauders.

“When she gets some rest, she’s as good as anybody,” Stewart said of Huber, who didn’t throw against Yorktown in the Cougars’ lone HHC loss.

Friday’s game ended a stretch of four conference games in five days for Greenfield-Central, which tested the surgically repaired throwing arm of Huber.

The setback for Mt. Vernon (6-6, 1-3 HHC) marked its first 10-run rule loss of the season and their first shutout.

“They’re in our sectional,” Kirby said of the Cougars. “So I think the girls realize, ‘Hey, this is where we have to be as a team.’

“I think we have the talent to compete with them, it’s just how the girls choose to answer from this. It’s up to them now.”

Notes:

Mt. Vernon will host Greenfield-Central, Anderson, Connersville, New Castle, Pendleton Heights and Richmond in Sectional 9, May 20 to 25. The tournament draw is May 14. … With the six strikeouts, Huber increased her Hancock-County best total to 98 in 60.2 innings. … The Marauders will host No. 14 Noblesville on Monday and visit No. 12 Shelbyville on Tuesday. … Greenfield-Central hosts Southport today at 6 p.m.