Cougars’ run ends at regional

INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time all year, the game was secondary for the 14th-ranked Greenfield-Central Cougars.

Despite facing a four-run deficit late against No. 11 Roncalli in the Class 4A regional championship Tuesday night, the Cougars’ attention turned toward one of their own rather than the game’s final inning — and for good reason.

With junior ace Darcie Huber laying face down near the first base line, injuring her left leg while attempting to beat out a close play on an infield grounder, the scoreboard didn’t seem to matter as much.

Final: Roncalli 5, Greenfield-Central 1.

“It’s just awful seeing something like that late in a game,” Greenfield-Central head coach Jason Stewart remarked after Roncalli secured the final out for their seventh regional title all time. “It’s just two kids hustling, trying to make a play.

“She’s the heart of our team. She’s the leader. It hurts us more than this loss. I can get over a loss. I don’t want to see one of my players get hurt.”

The injury unfolded in the top of the seventh with the Cougars (27-5) down 5-1.

Huber stepped up to the plate with one out and two runners on base. As the team’s leading hitter (32 RBIs, nine home runs and a .490 batting average) she continued to play at the only level she knows, looking to keep the Cougars’ rally alive after a Morganne Denny single drove in Sarah Morris to erase the shutout.

On contact, she sprinted toward first base. Huber’s left hip collided with Roncalli first baseman Megan Choinacky’s. The impact sent Huber to the ground and elevated concern from both dugouts as she was soon attended to by trainers and 20 minutes later by emergency medical personnel. She was transported to Methodist Hospital for treatment.

“She always plays her heart out,” Greenfield-Central junior Erika Knapp said. “If she could have gotten up from that, she would have.

“We’ve all been playing together for a long time, even before high school on travel teams when we were younger. We’re all close. We’re all friends and not just teammates.”

Choinacky, who sparked the Rebels’ (26-8) four-run bottom of the fifth inning with a two-run triple, showed her concern and came over to check on her fallen summer league teammate as well.

“We play travel ball together,” said Choinacky, who finished 2-for-3 with a double and a triple for the Rebels. “She’s like my sister. She’s one of the toughest players I know. I’m sure she’ll make a full recovery, and I can’t wait to see her back on the diamond.”

Huber showed her grit throughout the night, pitching six gutty innings against a prolific lineup. Roncalli carried a .350 team batting average and lived up to it.

Working Huber for a 41-pitch bottom of the first inning, Roncalli grabbed a quick 1-0 lead on Choinacky’s double to right field. Jordan Jenkins, who collected her 16th pitching win of the year, aided her own cause with a 2-for-3 performance and an RBI-single in the fifth.

Jenkins scattered five hits and kept Greenfield off the board until the final inning.

Huber dug deep after a rocky first, retiring five consecutive Rebels before the hosts padded their advantage.

“We couldn’t catch a break early. We hit some line drives right at them with two outs,” Stewart said. “We couldn’t get big hit. We couldn’t get that big swing we’ve gotten all year. We kept leaving runners in scoring position. But that’s a great team. They’re one of the top teams in the state. They’ll give anyone fits.”

Roncalli moves on to the Bedford North Lawrence semistate. The Cougars, which only graduate one senior starter, have other plans, and it’s focused on Huber.

“When it comes down to it, if your friend is hurt, especially with a key player like Darcie, we want to make sure he’s alright,” Knapp said. “We worried. We hope she can come back strong.

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Rich Torres is sports editor at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at rtorres@greenfieldreporter.com or 317-477-3227.