NEW PALESTINE — Six days after balanced hitting, strong pitching and superb team defense guided Greenfield-Central to a season-opening sweep of Pendleton Heights, G-C used the same formula to achieve an identical result Friday night at New Palestine.
The visiting Cougars took two from the Dragons for the second year in a row, winning 6-4 in Game 1 and 5-3 in Game 2, holding off late NP rallies in both games.
The defending Hoosier Heritage Conference and sectional champions are 4-0 overall and in conference play, with upcoming games against Beech Grove and Scecina looming before a Friday date at Mt. Vernon.
“We got really good pitching tonight. Defense was very good,” said second-year Greenfield-Central coach Brian Murphy said. “Not very happy with some of our bunting. 4-0 is a great week, we can obviously get a lot better, but 4-0 is hard to complain about.”
The ends to the two games Friday illustrated the small difference between winning and losing.
Trailing 6-4 in the opener, NP had runners at first and third with two out in the bottom of the seventh. Pinch-hitter Cody Chandler ripped the first pitch he saw from Mitch Gibson into the left-center gap, a well-hit ball that seemed like a cinch to tie the game. But out of nowhere came G-C center fielder Dallas Pribble, who ran down the ball within steps of the warning track.
“First of all, not only did Dallas run the ball down, that (play) was at dusk,” said Murphy, noting that Pribble was staring into the sun as he chased down the ball. “To pick it up and run it down, that was extraordinary. That was great.”
In the nightcap, the Dragons had runners at first and second with two out down 5-3 in the top of the seventh. Facing the Cougars’ Slater Rush, NP catcher Steven Clark hammered an offering down the left-field line. With the runners going on the 2-2 pitch, if the ball landed in fair territory, the game was tied. If it went over the fence, the hosts would lead for the first time since the third inning of Game 1.
But the ball landed about 10 feet short of the fence and approximately five feet foul. On the next pitch, Rush froze Clark with a breaking ball to earn a strikeout looking, ending the game and ensuring the sweep.
“Our kids battled hard. We had a lot of atom balls tonight. I sat back there in amazement saying ‘Wow, wow, wow – right at them,” Dragon coach Shawn Lyons said. “Those are the breaks.”
G-C hurlers at it again
After surrendering one run and just two walks against Pendleton Heights, Greenfield-Central’s pitchers weren’t quite as sharp Friday – but they were more than good enough.
Hayden Kissee earned the win in the opener to move to 2-0. The senior gave up three runs in three innings, but recovered nicely after giving up a double then a home run to Cameron Clark to begin the game.
Gibson pitched four innings in relief to earn his second save.
Seth Adams went five innings in Game 2 vs. Pendleton, and he was even stronger Friday, throwing six and 1/3 innings of 3-run, 5-hit ball. Rush picked up his second save by getting the last two outs.
The Kissee-Gibson and Adams-Rush combinations were very effective for the second week in a row.
It was a different story for New Palestine.
Pitching for the first time this season, Cameron Clark got the start in Game 1 and only lasted two innings, giving up four runs (three earned), while walking two, hitting a batter and striking out five.
On the bright side, junior Andy Edwards threw five quality innings in relief of Clark, keeping the home team in the game.
In Game 2, Evan Vance started for the Dragons and allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings. Justin Anderson, who picked up the save in NP’s win over Delta Saturday, tossed a scoreless inning in relief.
“We’re searching. We’ve got some kids struggling,” Lyons said of the state of his pitching staff. “We’re really happy with Andy Edwards, a junior that stepped up for us in a tough situation. The pitchers that have had success in our program have the ability to throw any pitch at any time in the count. And we’re working on that, but Andy did a pretty good job tonight.”
Gibson paces balanced G-C offense
In addition to his quality night on the mound, Gibson enjoyed an inspired night at the dish.
Gibson reached base in six of his seven plate appearances and scored six times from his No. 2 position in the lineup. The shortstop nearly recorded a cycle in the opener, hitting a home run, a single and a triple in his first three at-bats before popping up in his fourth time up. Gibson wound up doubling in his first at-bat of Game 2.
“It’s one of those things, it’s so intense during the game, but I’ll look back on later and notice that yeah, he had a really good night,” Murphy said of the Kaskaskia College (Ill.) recruit.
Also thriving at the plate Friday for the Cougars were Jared Banton, who had three hits, three RBI, a stolen base and a run scored; Syrus Fletcher, who had three hits, a stolen base and three RBI; and Slater Rush, who scored two runs, walked twice and had two hits.
As for New Palestine, Nick Butcher went 2-for-4 with a run in Game 1. Wes McBride had a hit, two walks and scored a run. In Game 2, Cody Chandler had two RBI and Jason Hall-Manley hit a solo home run.
Around the bases
Both teams return to action Monday. Greenfield-Central hosts Beech Grove (0-1) and New Palestine welcomes Perry Meridian (0-1). … Rush recorded eight putouts at third base in Game 2. “Slater Rush did a nice job at Game 2 at third base,” Lyons said. … The Dragons downed Triton Central 17-3 Thursday, notching 13 hits.
Greenfield-Central 6, New Palestine 4
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
GC 103 200 0 — 6 10 3
NP 200 100 1 — 4 7 1
WP: Kissee (2-0). LP: C. Clark (0-1). SV: Gibson (2).
GC: Gibson 3-4, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI; Rush 2 BB, R; Banton 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Fletcher 2-4, 2 RBI, SB.
NP: Butcher 2-4, run; C. Clark HR; McBride 1-2, 2 BB, run. Swain 1-2, RBI.
Greenfield-Central 5, New Palestine 3
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
NP (2-3, 1-3 HHC) 010 200 0 — 3 5 1
GC (4-0, 4-0 HHC) 102 020 X — 5 7 2
WP: Adams (2-0). LP: Vance (1-1). SV: Rush (2)
NP: Chandler 2-2, 2 RBI; Hall-Manley 1-3, HR; C. Clark 1-3, BB, SB.
GC: Gibson 2-2, 3 R; Rush 2-3, R; Banton 1-1, R, SB, RBI.