FORTVILLE — Coaches across all sports espouse: Their best players don’t lead with words. They lead by doing.
Darcie Huber is the Class 4A No. 8 Greenfield-Central softball team’s leader, and she spoke volumes to her teammates and to the state with her performance Monday night at Mt. Vernon.
The junior ace pitcher was nearly unhittable in the Cougars’ Sectional 9 quarterfinal 3-1 win against Anderson. Equally important, she was unflappable.
After cruising through the first few innings with no damage allowed, Huber easily could have lost her poise when she surrendered a home run in the fourth inning to the Indians’ Natania VanSickle. After all, it gave the Indians (6-16) a 1-0 lead more than halfway through a game with the Cougars’ postseason life on the line.
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But she didn’t let it get to her. Instead of getting flustered, Huber struck out a batter to end the inning and then got even, literally.
She led off the Cougars’ half of the fourth by cracking a game-tying home run over the right-field fence.
The shot seemed to serve as a wakeup call for an up-until-then silent Cougars’ offense.
The next batter, Michaela Ballman, launched a home run of her own to give Greenfield-Central and Huber a 2-1 lead, all the run support they would need.
“She’s a bulldog,” Greenfield-Central coach Jason Stewart said of Huber bouncing back after conceding the long ball.
“She’s a leader, a big-time player. And she showed it again today.”
Later, Huber would provide herself with an insurance run by driving in the Cougars’ third run on a line-shot single in the fifth.
On the mound, Huber cruised the remainder of the contest, allowing just one more hit, an innocuous single in the seventh, after the fourth-inning home run.
She finished with 13 strikeouts, giving her a 12th game this season with double-digit whiffs.
Huber said she delivered Monday because she had to, because it’s the time of the season everyone needs to step up.
“I felt confident out there today,” Huber said.
“Everyone’s been waiting for this. We’re ready to win out first sectional in a while, and then we’re looking to do (some more damage) in this tournament.”
Consider the state effectively put on notice.
Greenfield-Central (25-4) will take on New Castle at 7:15 p.m. today in the sectional semifinal, after the Trojans defeated Richmond 7-3 Monday night at Mt. Vernon.
New Castle is a familiar foe for Greenfield-Central. The Hoosier Heritage Conference rivals played once this season in late April, with the Cougars winning a 3-0 contest.
In that game, the Trojans, like the Indians, could not solve Huber. She tossed seven scoreless innings and scattered three hits.
The Cougars finished out their record-breaking regular season with Friday’s 4-1 win against Lawrence North.
It was their program-best 24th victory of the season.
Huber pitched a complete game, allowing one hit and one unearned run while striking out 13.
On offense, Morganne Denny led the charge, going 2 for 4 including a triple and her seventh home run of the year. She finished with a run scored and three RBI. Huber and Briana Whitaker each picked up a couple of hits.
Mt. Vernon, the Cougars’ sectional rival, also played this weekend. The Marauders hosted the Mt. Vernon Invitational and defeated Rising Sun 4-0 before falling against Elwood 4-1 in the tournament championship game.
Against Rising Sun, Sara Pridgent tossed a complete game shutout and struck out eight to lead the Marauders to victory. At the plate, MacKenzie McCann and Kristin Connor each recorded a pair of hits and an RBI.
In the loss versus Elwood, Morgan Moss collected two hits and drove in Mt. Vernon’s lone run. Kaitlyn Nugent threw a complete game and allowed six hits and two earned runs.
Mt. Vernon (11-13), which drew an opening-round bye, takes on Pendleton Heights (14-11) in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m today. The Marauders suffered an 11-1 loss against the Arabians on May 7.
2A Sectional 41 at Cambridge City Lincoln
Centerville 10, Knightstown 3
Cambridge City Lincoln 1, Union County, 0
Hagerstown 10, Northeastern 4
Eastern Hancock vs. Centerville, 5:30 p.m.
Cambridge City Lincoln vs. Hagerstown, 7 p.m.
Championship, 6 p.m.
4A Sectional 9 at Mt. Vernon
Pendleton Heights 17, Connersville, 0
Greenfield-Central 3, Anderson 1
New Castle 7, Richmond 3
Mt. Vernon vs. Pendleton Heights
Greenfield-Central vs.New Castle, 7:15 p.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.
4A Sectional 13 at Center Grove
Center Grove 4, Greenwood 1
Franklin Central 5, Whiteland 1
Center Grove winner vs. Franklin Central winner, 5 p.m.
New Palestine vs. Franklin, 7 p.m.
Championship, 6 p.m.
Final Hoosier Heritage Conference standings
School; HHC record; Overall record
Pendleton Heights;3-4; 13-11
Mid-Hoosier Conference standings
School; MHC record; Overall record