GREENFIELD — There are unwritten rules in softball, and the Greenfield-Central Cougars aren’t breaking them, especially one in particular.
Riding an 11-game winning streak entering Tuesday night’s Hoosier Heritage Conference matchup against Shelbyville and ace pitcher Hannah File, the chatter was kept to a minuscule minimum.
No game is bigger than the other for the 11th-ranked Class 4A Cougars, regardless of the team’s attempt at a 12th straight W.
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“I don’t talk about it. I haven’t said too much about it to them,” Greenfield-Central head coach Jason Stewart said. “It’s not something I’m going to bring up everyday. I don’t want them to realize what they’re doing too much. You don’t want to mess with it.”
Against the Golden Bears (6-6, 1-3 HHC), the Cougars (13-1) didn’t toy around on their home diamond, winning 4-2 to improve to 3-0 in the conference standings.
“What is it now, 13-1 or 12-1?,” Greenfield-Central senior third baseman Morganne Denny remarked. “We don’t let that get to us. We always have to play the game like it’s our last. Sure, we’re still excited about it, but we don’t talk about it much.”
The Cougars spoke with their bats and a solid pitching performance by senior Michaela Ballman (6-0). The team’s 1A ace tossed a complete game for the win, striking out two and allowing six hits.
The only hiccups Ballman faced were against Shelbyville senior Natalie Weber, who finished 2-for-2 with a solo home run in the top of the sixth. An RBI single by Jo’el Gilbert in the fourth represented the Golden Bears only other run.
More impressive than Ballman’s ability to strand four Golden Bears on base was her resolve. Prior to the game, Stewart didn’t even know if his hurler could play after hearing she was ill the night prior.
When she came to the ballpark, she didn’t hesitate to take the ball.
“I felt pretty good. On and off, I felt a little sick, but I’m just going to fight through it. I’m not going to give up in a game like this,” Ballman said. “This is just as big as any other game. We just have to keep fighting, and we just need to keep going.”
The Cougars offense never rested, hitting .372 on the season with 116 runs scored through 13 games.
Taking advantage of three fielding errors in the bottom of the first inning, the Cougars loaded the bases with two outs and scored a pair on a throwing error by File.
They went up 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth as they kicked off a one-out rally with two runners on base. Sam Kihega drove in Codey Miller with an RBI ground out and Sydney Williams brought in another run with an RBI single.
“(This streak) is a lot of fun because different people have contributed. Obviously, (Morganne), (Michaela) and Sam have been huge for us in this start, but other people have been doing big things,” Stewart said. “It just gets contagious. It’s like the next person wants to jump in and be that kid that night.”
Denny was active at the plate going 3-for-4 to add to her team-leading .562 batting average. On Friday she blasted a pair of home runs, including a grand slam, against Batesville to give her five longballs on the year.
“We’re like a rally team. We always have to keep people on their toes,” Denny said. “It’s always when we have two outs. That’s who we are. We feed off each other’s energy.”
The team used their early lead to find a comfort zone against File, who allowed eight hits, no earned runs and struck out eight.
Kensie Bradley logged the Cougars only extra-base hit with a double in the second inning and Emily Francis was 2-for-3.
“File is going to be a Miss Softball candidate without a doubt. That kid is a stud. She’s going to James Madison, and you don’t want to get behind the eight ball against her and let her get her momentum going,” Stewart said. “Luckily, we put a little pressure on them in the first inning and they threw it around a little.”
The Cougars will look to keep their streak going this week with two more HHC games ahead. Today they host Yorktown (9-3, 2-2 HHC) before traveling to Mt. Vernon (4-7, 0-4 HHC) on Friday night.
The topic of conversation, Ballman said, won’t be on the streak.
“We try not to talk about that stuff. Every game is the same,” Ballman said.
Greenfield-Central 4, Shelbyville 2
SHS (6-6, 1-3 HHC);000;101;0;—;2;6;5
GC (13-1, 3-0 HHC);200;020;x;—;4;8;0
WP: Michaela Ballman LP: Hannah File
RBI: S. Kihega, S. Williams (GC); N. Weber, J. Gilbert (S).
HR: N. Weber. 2B: H. File, T. Bringle, N. Weber (S); K. Bradley (GC).
Notables: M. Denny 3-4, S. Williams 1-2, E. Francis 2-3, M. Ballman 7.0 IP, 2 K (GC); N. Weber 1-2, H. File 2-3 (S).