GREENFIELD — A win meant a chance to stay in the thick of the conference title chase next Friday against Shelbyville. A loss elevated the upcoming doubleheader against the Golden Bears into absolutely-need-a-sweep mode.
Thanks an offensive surge in the ninth inning of Game 2 of its doubleheader vs. Delta Friday night, Greenfield-Central stayed well within striking distance of claiming a second straight Hoosier Heritage Conference, downing the visiting Eagles 11-7 in nine innings. Delta took Game 1, 7-3.
The Cougars are now 11-7 overall and 6-2 in HHC play, a game behind 4A No. 7 Shelbyville (13-2), which moved to 7-1 in conference games with a two-game sweep of Yorktown Friday. The Golden Bears will travel up State Route 9 for the biggest double dip of the HHC season Friday.
Still stuck in a defensive/energy rut that’s been going on for weeks, G-C fell behind 4-0 in Game 1 and never got closer than a two-run deficit. The hosts rebounded to claim leads of 4-0 and 7-5 in the nightcap, only to see the Eagles plate two in the home half of the seventh to send the game to extras.
But, Jared Banton delivered the go-ahead runs with a two-run homer in the top of the ninth, and Slater Rush’s two-run single later in the frame provided Mitch Gibson with ample cushion to close out Game 2.
Second-year Cougar coach Brian Murphy is still searching for ways to reclaim the early-season magic his squad possessed when they started 4-1.
“The overall is that, No. 1, Delta is good. They came out and swung the bats. They did good things,” Murphy said. “But in the first game, we didn’t play. We didn’t come and attack. In the second game, we did a better job of it – but we’re just not playing very well. There’s nothing we can’t fix; our approach just isn’t very good. For whatever reason, we’re just very passive right now.
“I don’t think we’ve played a good string of baseball games – we’ve had a game here and there where we’ve played well – but we haven’t played well since New Pal (on April 11). And Pendleton Heights (on April 5) we did some good things.”
G-C got off to a nice start in Game 2, as Drey Jameson plated a run with a double. Banton, who reached on catcher’s interference, scored on the same play when the Eagles dropped the relay throw.
Gibson extended the blue and gold’s lead to 4-0 in the top of the second with a two-run round-tripper. But, Delta – batting .287 as a team entering Friday – did not go away, and managed to tie the game at four through four innings.
A three-run, four-hit top of the fifth put the Cougars back on top, the key knocks coming from Seth Adams (two RBI double) and Rush (RBI single).
Entering the bottom of the seventh, G-C was up 7-5 as Gibson came on to relieve Adams in search of his third save. But, the Eagles wound up scoring twice with some help from the Cougar defense.
The first run scored from third when the throw attempting to nail an Eagle stealing second reached the bag with no defender within 10 feet of second. Following a walk, Delta leveled the game at seven on a passed ball.
Gibson worked out a major jam in the bottom of the eighth, escaping runners on the corners with one out and bases loaded with two out. The senior fanned the side in the ninth to earn the win.
For the game, Gibson was 3-for-5 with four runs scored and a stolen base. He also struck out five on the mound. Rush was 4-for-5 with two doubles, three RBI and two steals. Banton had two RBI and two runs scored. Adams drove in two.
Delta busts out bats in Game 1
The Eagles showcased their offensive talent right off the bat in Game 1, scoring twice off four first-inning singles.
Tavis Rattray added to the visitors’ lead with a solo home run over Molinder Field’s Green Monster in the third.
Gibson’s leadoff single in the fourth was the Cougars’ first base knock, and the hosts plated their first two runs on a sacrifice fly by Adams and an RBI fielder’s choice by Jameson, slashing the visitors’ lead to 4-2.
Both teams’ scored in the fifth. The Eagles’ Cade Jones manufactured a run on his own in the top of the frame. Jones walked, stole second, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on wild pitch. As soon as Jones crossed home plate, Murphy marched out to the mound to meet with his team.
“There’s no excuse for it. We had just cut it to 4-2, and then we go out, and without them putting the ball in play, they’ve got another run. You hear this on TV all the time: ‘Your team just scored a run, you have to go out now and shut them down because you’re back in the game,’” Murphy said. “Instead of shutting them down, we walk a guy, he steals second, moves up on a passed ball and scores on a wild pitch.
“… So what’s going on? We’re not locked in. We’re not ready to compete on every pitch.”
Hayden Kissee – who took over for Rush on the mound with two outs in the top half of the third, responded with solo round-tripper of his own in the home half to make the score 5-3.
Delta pushed across the game’s final two runs in the sixth on sac flies by Rob Fox and Jones.
In Game 1, Tate Stone was 3-for-4 with two runs and two steals. Colin McCaslin was 2-for-4 with a double. Nick Maloney was 3-for-4 with a double.
The Eagles finished with 14 hits in Game 1 and 27 on the night. They also upped their season stolen base total to 43 after going nine of 10 in stolen base attempts.
Delta starter Rob Fox was his usual steady self in Game 1, limiting the G-C offense to five hits and striking out seven in a complete-game effort. It was Fox’s fourth straight HHC start with at least five and 1/3 innings pitched and three or fewer earned runs allowed.
“He’s got good stuff, he’s a competitor and he hit his spots,” Murphy said. “You can do some things against him, but you’re going to have to play well to beat him.
“If they would’ve come out and we would’ve played well and they would’ve beaten us with Fox on the mound, then ‘OK, (Delta) played well.’ They’re certainly good enough to do it, but we didn’t play well. We weren’t ready to play.”
Notes: Delta is at Bellmont (8-8) Monday. … The Eagles wrapped up their HHC slate Friday. They split five doubleheaders and were swept by Shelbyville. … Greenfield-Central, which plays its final nine games at home, welcomes 4A No. 1 Cathedral (20-3) Tuesday.
Delta 7, Greenfield-Central 3
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
DE 211 012 0 — 7 14 1
GC 000 210 0 — 3 5 2
WP: Fox (2-2). LP: Rush (0-1).
DE: Stone 3-for-4, 2 R, 2 SB; Rattray 2-for-3, HR, BB; McCaslin 2-for-4, 2B; Maloney 3-for-4, 2B; Tomlin 2-for-5, R, 2 SB, Fox SAC fly, RBI, R, 7 IP, 7 K.
GC: Gibson 3-for-4, R; Adams SAC Fly; Kissee HR; Jameson RBI FC, SB.
Greenfield-Central 11, Delta 7
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
GC (11-7, 6-2 HHC) 220 030 004 — 11 12 1
DE (11-9, 5-7 HHC) 011 210 200 — 7 13 1
WP: Gibson (2-1). LP: Coffey (3-1).
GC: Gibson 3-for-5, HR, 4 R, SB/5 K; Rush 4-for-5, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 2 SB; Banton HR, 2 RBI, 2 R; Jameson 2-for-5, R, RBI; Adams 2B, 2 RBI, BB.
DE: Stone 3-for-4, BB, R, 2 SB; Maloney 2-for-4, RBI, R; McCaslin SAC Fly, RBI; Tomlin 2-for-5, R; Taflinger 2-for-4, 2B, IBB, R.