KNIGHTSTOWN — The last time Knightstown baseball visited Greenfield-Central, on April 26, 2012, it took an 11-1 loss. It was an ordinary defeat in a putrid season for the Panthers, who finished the 2012 campaign at 1-24.
The Panthers will return to Greenfield’s Molinder Field today as the state’s Class 2A No. 8-ranked team, sporting a 10-1 record. And the man in charge of the Knightstown dugout was on the Cougars’ side of the field two years ago.
Daren Hardesty is in his first season as head coach of the resurgent Knightstown baseball program.
“I think from that point (in 2012), the kids knew things couldn’t get any worse,” said Hardesty, a 2003 Pendleton Heights grad who was the pitching coach at Greenfield-Central for five seasons from 2008 through 2012. “And it really hardened a lot of those kids. We have a lot of players on our team now who went through that one-win season.
“And nothing fazes them. That’s what I’ve been impressed with the most. Nothing gets them off their game.”
Hardesty worked at G-C under head coach Travis Keesling, a fellow Pendleton Heights alum, then followed Keesling to Madison County when Keesling took over the Arabians’ program last season.
Keesling began his coaching career as an assistant at PH in 2003 under the legendary Bill Stoudt before heading to Greenfield, and it was in 2003 that Hardesty went 8-0 on the mound as a senior for Pendleton’s 32-2 team.
“He was a really good player,” Keesling recalled. “And he’s an awesome coach. I’m absolutely not surprised by his success.
“For my own selfish reasons, I hated to see him go, but you know what, you can’t keep the good ones as assistants very long. I knew at some point in time he was going to take over a program and being extremely successful doing it.”