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Dream Come True: Greenfield awarded first baseball sectional

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GREENFIELD — Six and a half years ago, $53,000 was poured into renovating Molinder Field, Greenfield-Central’s baseball facility. One of the long-term objectives of ‘The Mo’s’ overhaul was to make the park a home for postseason baseball.

“I would love nothing more than to be able to host a sectional,” G-C athletic director Kevin Horrigan told the Daily Reporter in November of 2007.

Mission accomplished.

The IHSAA’s Executive Committee recently designated Greenfield-Central the host of Class 4A Sectional 9. The dream of Horrigan, Alan Hammons, Dale Parsley, Dennis Bowman, Scott Miller, Travis Keesling and everyone else associated with the Cougar baseball program who donated their time, money and effort into making Molinder a renowned high school ball park will be realized come May 28.

“Everybody I have talked to is incredibly excited. It’s a credit to all the parents and all the people that make it what it is,” G-C coach Brian Murphy said. “Everyone’s really excited about the atmosphere.”

Ever since it was elevated to 4A in 2008, Pendleton Heights has hosted the past six sectionals Greenfield has played in. Keesling, entering his second year coaching the Arabians after heading the G-C program from 2008-12, said he saw the change coming.

“Pendleton had hosted it so many years in a row. I’m OK with it not being at Pendleton every year,” said Keesling, a Pendleton Heights graduate. “I understand other people want to host. Do I want it here? Yes. But I understand.”

Visions of acquiring what is believed to be the first baseball sectional to be played at Greenfield-Central began nearly seven years ago, when Hammons and then-coach Miller formed the Baseball Backers. The booster club organized a golf tournament in the summer of 2007 to raise money, and the Backers eventually contributed most of the $53,000 to refurbish Molinder. Local businesses also pitched in.

The improvements, installations and repairs — in addition to more projects conducted in recent years — include the construction of the 22-foot high, 124-foot wide wall in left field modeled after Fenway Park’s ‘Green Monster.’ New bleachers, new dugouts and a new red brick backstop — replicated after Wrigley Field — were added. A bathroom facility was constructed beyond the left-field wall. Lights and an all-grass field were installed. A wood fence now extends down the foul lines and concrete replaced gravel outside the field. Hammons led a crew that worked during the week and often logged 12-hour Saturdays and Sundays to transform Molinder.

“I think in the five years that I was there, it all started with Alan Hammons,” Keesling said. “We made a ton of changes to that facility. I’m pretty proud of the changes that we were able to make. I would hope that the changes we were able to make were a small part of that.”

Horrigan believes enough parking will be available to accommodate what will likely be large crowds. In addition to the lot behind home plate, patrons will be able to park in the lots just beyond the left-center and right field walls.

“We can also use the softball parking lot. And as long as the weather cooperates, I could use the grass field north of the baseball parking lot, although I would prefer to use that area for warm-up for the teams,” said Horrigan, who envisions entry gates behind home plate, by the right-field foul pole and along left field line. “Unlike Pendleton in the past, we only host baseball, rather than baseball and softball at the same time. That should help with some — but not all — of the congestion.”

According to Keesling, the Cougars will be the only Sectional 9 squad playing on a grass infield.

“The only problem with Greenfield is that fact that it’s not conducive to practice on because of the all-grass infield. I think it will be fine, though,” he said. “Every other team in the sectional has a dirt infield.”

The Greenfield baseball community can’t wait for the spring.

“Most everyone knows how well they have taken care of the field and what a great job they have done,” Horrigan said of the people who contributed to Molinder’s facelift. “The Baseball Backers are very excited about being able to host the sectional.”

Murphy, who guided the Cougars to a sectional title in his first season last year, said the stress associated with hosting a sectional comes off the field, not on it.

“There’s not more pressure to win because you put enough on yourself to play well,” said Murphy, who estimated he hosted at least one sectional during his time coaching Warren Central from 2005-12. “The pressure is to do everything right and to make the other teams fell welcome, to make it a first-class event. The pressure is getting everything ready. The games are an escape.”


Dragons fall to 3A, but won’t face drop in talent

For the second time in three years, New Palestine finds itself in a new baseball sectional.

When the IHSAA announced classifications for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years last March, the Dragons were still a 4A program in baseball — albeit the smallest 4A school in terms of enrollment.

But when 3A Western won a 2013 regional crown after claiming a state championship in 2012, the Panthers accumulated six points on the IHSAA’s success factor scale. Western was then bumped to a 4A sectional because of its tournament success, and New Palestine was dropped down to 3A because it was the smallest 4A school.

When sectional play begins May 28, NP coach Shawn Lyons and his squad will travel to Chatard and try for the program’s 15th sectional title against a Sectional 26 field that includes the host Trojans, Brebeuf Jesuit, Guerin Catholic, Indianapolis Herron and Indianapolis Marshall. Herron and NP replaced Mt. Vernon (will play in Sectional 9) and Howe.

The past two seasons, the Dragons competed in 4A for the first time and went up against Center Grove, Franklin, Franklin Central, Greenwood and host Whiteland.

“From our approach, it won’t change anything we do. We’re going to do what we do. Whoever we end up playing, whether it’s Brebeuf or Center Grove, it doesn’t matter,” said Lyons, whose squad won its inaugural 4A sectional in 2011 en route to a semistate berth. “I don’t like the fact that there are people saying, ‘Oh, wow. You’re dropping to 3A, it isn’t going to be as challenging.’ If people knew what I knew, they’d be cautiously optimistic because it’s going to be challenging.”

After failing to advance to a sectional championship game last season for the first time since 2005, NP will have roadblocks from teams with considerable baseball tradition. Chatard has 11 sectional titles, while Marshall owns seven. Guerin has reached the Sectional 26 title game in back to back seasons.

“Those teams are pretty solid. I know the coaches and they’re all well-coached,” said Lyons, a Scecina graduate. “Brebeuf was sophomore and junior-dominated when they were state runner-ups two years ago. Preseason, they’ll be ranked in the top three.

“The depth of the sectional isn’t what it used to be at Whiteland (Sectional 13). The top of the sectional will be just as challenging.”

The main competition will likely come from Brebeuf, owners of six straight sectional crowns and 12 overall.

“It’s the Brebeuf Invite from what I’ve been told,” Lyons joked.

In an odd twist, Lyons said New Palestine was on track to host Sectional 13 had it remained in 4A. Instead, Sectional 13 will return to Whiteland.

As for Chatard, its all-turf field will prevent easy rain-outs. However, the park — newly refurbished in 2012 — does not have lights, which will prevent doubleheaders at night.

“Pitching could be swayed,” Lyons said of potential strategy implications resulting from playing multiple days in a row.

In any case, the Dragons have plenty of experience playing against private schools.

“They don’t intimidate us,” Lyons said. “We play Guerin, Brebeuf and Cathedral during the regular season. It’ll be a nice little challenge for us.”


Baseball, softball sectional sites

>>Local baseball (May 28-June 2) and softball (May 26-31) sectional sites, as announced recently by IHSAA.


4A Sectional 9 at Greenfield-Central

Anderson, Connersville, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon, New Castle, Pendleton Heights, Richmond

3A Sectional 26 at Chatard

Brebeuf, Guerin Catholic, Herron, Chatard, Indianapolis Marshall, New Palestine

2A Sectional 41at Centerville

Cambridge City, Centerville, Eastern Hancock, Hagerstown, Knightstown, Northeastern, Union County


4A Sectional 9 at Pendleton Heights

Anderson, Connersville, Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon, New Castle, Pendleton Heights, Richmond

4A Sectional 13 at Franklin

Center Grove, Franklin Central, Franklin, Greenwood, New Palestine, Whiteland

2A Sectional 41 at Union County

Cambridge City, Centerville, Eastern Hancock, Hagerstown, Knightstown, Northeastern, Union County

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