PENDLETON — One night after needing a walk-off miracle, the Class 4A Greenfield-Central Cougars came out on a mission for their encore performance during Tuesday’s Sectional 9 semifinals.
The Cougars scored in every frame through the first five innings and the team’s deep rotation scattered six hits, as Greenfield- Central defeated Richmond 7-2 to advance into today’s Sectional 9 championship.
“Was it a perfect game? No. Was it as close as we’ve had to one? Yes,” Cougars head coach Jason Stewart said after his team’s fourth straight win. “We had great defense, 14 hits and very good pitching.”
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The Cougars (18-9) were locked in from the opening pitch at Pendleton Heights Legends Field, recording a hit in every inning. But no one was more zeroed in than junior Morganne Denny, who finished 4-for-4 with two singles, a double and a solo home run.
The cardiac cats’ leader in home runs, Denny ramped up her season total to 11 when she blasted a 2-0 pitch over the right-field fence in the bottom of the fourth. The longball was her second in as many days.
“Morganne is the freak show right now to be honest. It’s as dialed in as I’ve ever seen anybody. She’s starting to get more aggressive, which I’ve tried to get her to do the past couple of years. Something’s clicked,” Stewart said. “Right now, she’s not missing anything.”
During Greenfield-Central’s 4-3 win against Anderson on Monday, Denny was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, a homer and a double.
The Cougars’ two-hole hitter is now carrying a .521 batting average into today’s sectional championship game against host Pendleton Heights at 6 p.m.
She has nine doubles and 36 RBIs on the year. Denny’s home runs account for approximately a third of the team’s school record 29 hit this year.
“It’s not about home runs. It’s about hitting it hard. If you hit it hard, something is going to happen,” Denny remarked on her potent bat. “I see home runs as accidents. ‘Oh, yeah, I actually hit a home run. I actually meant to hit a line drive, but it went over.’ That’s what I think when I hit the ball.”
The Red Devils struggled to make consistent contact against Greenfield-Central starter Sydney Williams, whose lone nemesis was Elissa Tilton.
The senior shortstop went 2-for-3 with a two-run double in the top of the fifth with the Cougars up 6-0.
Williams, the team’s No. 3 pitcher, earned the win to improve to 6-3. Makayla Durick, who is fourth on the pitching depth chart, entered in relief in the fifth, holding the Red Devils to one hit the final 22/3 innings.
“That’s what we need. There’s not another team up here that’s going with four pitchers in the sectional. I can promise you that. This is as team effort as you can possibly have,” Stewart said. “I’m proud of these girls and the way they’re playing right now.”
Michaela Ballman was 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the second inning for the Cougars. Sarah Morris went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
“For the last two weeks, we’ve averaged about 10 to 12 base runners left on base. I told the girls, if we can get that big hit, we’re going to be tough to beat. We just have to get those runners in,” Stewart said. “We put it together for five straight innings. That’s hard to do. To their credit, we had a lot of big two-out hits.”
Now, they’re one win away from a sectional repeat after winning the school’s first title since 2009-10 last spring.
“We had a nice flow through the entire game. We didn’t have any cold moments. That was important,” Denny said. “We’re just ready to go. It’s sectional. Who’s not ready? It’s a fun time.”
Class 4A Sectional 9
at Pendleton Heights
Greenfield-Central 7, Richmond 2
WP: Sydney Williams LP: Grace Townsend
HR: Morganne Denny (GC). 2B: M. Denny (GC); Elissa Tilton (RHS). RBI: M. Denny 2, Michaela Ballman, Sarah Morris 2 (GC); E. Tilton 2 (RHS).
Notables: M. Denny 4-4, 2 runs; M. Ballman 2-4, run; S. Morris 2-4; Codey Miller 2-3, run; Erika Knapp 2-3; S. Williams 4.1 IP, 2 ER, 2 BB, K; Makayla Durick 2.2 IP, H (GC)