GREENFIELD — Hyped as a pitcher’s duel between a pair of Ball State recruits, Greenfield-Central’s Spencer Hert stole the show on Monday night.
The senior first baseman opened up the Cougars’ home doubleheader with a solo home run against rival Pendleton Heights (14-4, 8-2 HHC) in the first game. Later with the game tied 3-3, Hert supplied another key hit, blasting a walk-off RBI double to give the Cougars a 4-3 win in the bottom of the seventh.
In the second game, Hert carried a two-hitter through five innings and struck out six, but the Arabians’ answered with a late four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth, splitting the series with a 4-1 win.
The Cougars (12-6, 6-4 HHC) pulled the Arabians out of sole possession of first place in the HHC standings as New Palestine improved to 15-3 and 8-2 on Monday night.
“I love that we split them, but we should have swept them,” Greenfield-Central head coach Robbie Miller said. “What I’m proud of is in the first game against a Division I pitcher, we got in his head and rattled him a little bit. And they showed they can compete with anybody. That’s a good baseball team.”
In the opener, Chayce McDermott entered the matchup with 42 strikeouts in 21.2 innings pitched. He carried a 1.62 ERA with five earned runs allowed.
The Cougars handed the senior ace three earned runs behind Hert’s solo home run in the bottom of the second and his heroic two-out game-winner in the seventh.
McDermott tossed 90 pitches through 4.2 innings and was chased in the fifth after racking up seven strikeouts and two walks.
The Cougars recorded three of their nine hits in the second inning and another three in a two-run fifth.
“We knew what we had to do. We had to keep the same approach at the plate,” Hert said. “We got the hits when we needed them. That was huge for us.”
Cougars’ starter Drey Jameson, a fellow Ball State recruit along with McDermott, left the game after 4.0 innings and a 1-0 lead. The HHC’s leader in strikeouts sat down seven batters for 64 in 39.0 innings this season. He walked three but only allowed one hit.
“I was looking forward to this game. We’re not roommate buddies, but we’re considering it,” Jameson remarked on the meeting with McDermott. “I wanted to get the win. We got it done, so I was pretty excited about that. Glad my teammates had my back.”
The Cougars lead grew to 3-0 as freshman Adam Hutchison relieved Jameson int he fifth. A solo home run from Tyler Farrell in the fifth along with an RBI single from Braxton Turner increased the Cougars advantage.
The Arabians tied the game 3-3 in the top of the seventh on a fielder’s choice as a force out play at second base with two outs was misplayed. Pendleton Heights cut the lead to 3-2 in the sixth with an RBI sacrifice fly by Adam Carr and a throwing error.
Hert’s second double of the game, erased the team’s miscues as he lined his walk-off into left field on a 1-1 count against Cox, who was called in as a reliever in the seventh.
“That felt pretty good, especially the home run against McDermott,” Hert said. “He’s one of the best in our conference. It felt good to get us started and going.”
“He was in a slump for the longest time, but not anymore I hope,” Jameson commented on Hert’s clutch performance. “He’s finally coming out of it. That’s good to see.”
Hert finished the first game 3-for-4, Turner was 2-for-3 and Nick Atwood was 2-for-3. Farrell went 2-for-4.
Turner put the Cougars up 1-0 in the second game with a solo home run in the top of the fourth. He added a double to go 2-for-3.
Hert cruised on the mound, retiring 11 hitters in a row at one point and scattering two hits before the Arabians charged back in the bottom of the sixth.
“That’s the best Spencer has thrown all year,” Miller remarked after the split. “That’s what I looked forward from Spencer all year. He struggled a little bit but he showed he still has it. He threw the ball pretty well.”
Pendleton Heights had four hits and scored four runs in the sixth, beginning with a solo home run by Cox to overtake the Cougars.
Nate Norris drove in a pair off a two-out single after a sacrifice fly by Brandon Helpling to make it 4-1.
“I told the guys, to win sectional, we have to win two baseball games that are going to be that type of a situation. We don’t score enough runs to blow anybody out,” Miller said. “We have to be ready for a dogfight and get it done.”
The Cougars’ next game is Friday at home against HHC rival Mt. Vernon for a doubleheader at 5:30 p.m.
Greenfield-Central 4, Pendleton Heights 3
PH (13-4, 7-2 HHC);000;002;1;—;3;4;1
GC (12-5, 6-3 HHC);010;020;1;—;4;9;4
WP: Adam Hutchison LP: Corbin Cox
HR: Spencer Hert, Tyler Farrell (GC). 2B: S. Hert 2 (GC).
RBI: S. Hert 2, Braxton Turner, T. Farrell (GC); Corbin Cox (PH).
Notables: Drey Jameson 4.0 IP, H, 3 BB, 7 K, T. Farrell 2-4, S. Hert 3-4, B. Turner 2-3, Nick Atwood 2-3; Chayce McDermott 4.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K.
Pendleton Heights 4, Greenfield-Central 1
GC (12-6, 6-4 HHC);000;100;0;—;1;4;0
PH (14-4, 8-2 HHC);000;004;x;—;4;6;1
WP: Eston Stulls LP: Spencer Hert
HR: Corbin Cox (PH); Braxton Turner (GC). 2B: B. Turner (GC).
RBI: B. Turner (GC); C. Cox, Brandon Helpling, Nate Norris 2 (PH).
Notables: S. Hert 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 6 K (GC).