GREENFIELD — It was as perfect an opening to Hoosier Heritage Conference play Greenfield-Central could have hoped for. Starter Curtiss Irving set Delta down in order to start the game. And after Jayden Jackson walked and Mitch Gibson reached on an error, Clark Pence crushed a 1-1 pitch over the right-center fence for a three-run home run.
The Cougars would load the bases with one out, but couldn’t convert after a contentious runner’s interference call prevented two runs from scoring. Nonetheless, G-C still had the bases full with two outs.
Then — as the gods of irony would have it — right before second baseman Adam Rains stepped into the batter’s box, storm clouds rolled in.
A halt in play was called due to lightning, and shortly thereafter the skies opened up for over an hour.
Eventually, the imposing clouds parted and with a heavy assist from the Greenfield grounds crew, play began about 90 minutes after the initial delay.
When all was said and done, G-C topped Delta 7-3 in game one of the teams’ doubleheader.
But, the Cougars weren’t exactly ready to play when play resumed. After Delta pitcher Austin Conway homered to begin the top half of the second inning, the Eagles got two more in the fourth to level the score. The back-to-back two-baggers by Adam Brown (left-center gap) and Skylar Brand (right-center gap) both came on two-strike pitches from the right-handed Irving.
Offensively, G-C went scoreless from the second through fourth innings, much to the chagrin of the team’s coach, Travis Keesling.
“We were just real lackadaisical,” explained the fifth-year Greenfield-Central coach. “We were striking out looking … I know it’s tough with the delay, but we have to do better.”
After he gave up a one-out single in the fifth, Irving’s night was finished. The junior went four and two-thirds, surrendering three runs (all earned) while walking one and striking out four.
“He wasn’t as sharp (in the later innings) as he was early on, but you know what, he was a bulldog and he battled,” said Keesling of Irving.
Lefty Brendon Neal relieved Irving and induced an inning-ending double play from Eagles’ catcher Taran Temple, who batted .337 with four home runs and 18 RBI last season.
Neal carried that momentum into the bottom half of the fifth by smacking a leadoff dinger over the right-field wall to give G-C the lead for good at 4-3.
Pence showed off his power once more in the bottom of the sixth, thumping another ball out of Molinder Field for his second three-run round-tripper of the evening. Pence’s blast gave him three hits and six RBI in the game and the Cougars a 7-3 advantage.