INDIANAPOLIS — “Victory Field let us come play on their field, and we played until they kicked us off.”
Following its 2-2 tie against Greenwood Saturday night, members of the Greenfield-Central baseball team — baseball, not soccer — posed for a picture with their families behind home plate at Victory Field.
For the parents, who inhabited a portion of the 15,500 seats at the downtown Indianapolis ballpark for three hours and sat in decreasing temperatures without much blood flow in their legs, there were plenty of grins for the cameras.
But, for the Cougars who fought tooth and nail with the Woodmen only to end with a game result more commonly associated with a certain fall sport, the smiles were few and far between.
“There was anger. There was a lot of anger,” admitted Curtiss Irving, G-C’s starting pitcher Saturday night, as the light towers at the stadium began to shut off one by one. “But, now that I look at it, it was a great experience.”
In the immediate postgame aftermath, Stevie Wonder’s 1966 hit single “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” blared through the stadium loudspeakers.
“Baby, everything is all right, uptight, out of sight.”
Wonder’s tune is about an underprivileged youth winning the affection of a wealthy young lady, who found it in her heart to look beyond the man’s meager means of living.
Though an IHSAA bylaw prevented it from winning the game, the Cougars ventured back to Greenfield early Sunday morning with something that may end up being more important than a win down the line.
By going toe-to-toe with a senior-laden Greenwood squad that returns its core from a 21-7 2012 squad, G-C convinced itself that it belongs on the same diamond at the state’s upper echelon of teams.
“We can play with anyone in the state,” Irving said. “I know that.”
After the two teams went scoreless for five innings, the blue and gold broke through in the away half of the 11th, scoring three runs on a single by Kyle Gleeson, a fielder’s choice by Chris Kersey and a sacrifice fly by Jayden Jackson. Following a walk, Irving was due up with the bases full and a chance to break the game wide-open.
It was at that point the clock struck midnight, thereby bringing into effect IHSAA Rule 9-13, titled “No Sunday Athletic Participation.” The rule reads, in part: “There shall be no interschool athletic contests, school practices or school-sponsored clinics held on Sunday.”
Both teams were informed of Rule 9-13 before the 11th, which began at approximately 11:42 p.m. Officially, since the 11th inning was not completed, the game ended in a 2-2 draw after 10 frames.
Postgame, first-year Greenfield-Central coach Brian Murphy offered the above quip about the home of the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians giving his team the boot before echoing Irving’s sentiments of self-persuasion.
“This was the kind of game where, obviously, you want to win. And in our eyes, in our dugout, we did. But it’s going to make us better later, because (Greenwood) is good,” explained Murphy, who received a dugout restriction in the fifth inning by the field umpire. “It was a tight contest, it was back-and-forth. We had guys make plays; we had guys with good at-bats in clutch situations.
“This is the kind of game that makes you better. It would’ve been better if we won, but it was a good, fun game and we’ll be better for it.”
The Cougars (6-3-1) began the game at the plate, and in what would become a familiar refrain, catcher Jayden Jackson found a way to get on base.
Following Jackson’s single and an out, Irving singled to right with Jackson running, giving G-C runners at second and third after Irving advanced on a long throw.
Jackson would eventually score on a wild pitch by Greenwood starter Mitch Caster to give the blue and gold an early 1-0 advantage.
Two innings later, Jackson doubled to begin the third, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Mitch Gibson, and crossed home after another wild pitch by Caster.
The Woodmen (5-2-1) responded in the home half of the third. Indiana recruit Alex Krupa reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Landon Fink.
Greenwood evened the score at two in the bottom of the fifth, but not without some controversy.
Chad Honeycutt led off with a double and was subsequently removed for pinch-runner Adam Miller.
With the count 1-0 on Marty Underwood, Irving attempted to pick off Miller at second case. Miller and Gibson, the Coguars’ shortstop, collided. Miller made it back to second safely.
Underwood went on to bunt down the third base line. Irving tried for the out at third, but Miller beat the throw.
Krupa then got the run in with a fielder’s choice to shortstop, barely outdistancing Gibson’s throw to first.
Murphy came out to protest the most recent play, but acknowledged that the “buildup” of what he perceived to be questionable calls in the inning prompted him to speak his peace.
“I didn’t understand why it was an ‘out’ call then a ‘safe’ call,” Murphy said of the play at first. “(The field umpire) called it ‘out’ then he called it ‘safe.’ That’s what most of the discussion was about.
Shortly thereafter, the field umpire handed Murphy a dugout restriction, meaning he could still coach but was not permitted to step on the field except for a pitching change or a player injury.
“And, the only gripe I have is I get restricted to the dugout after I’m done with the conversation and I’m heading back to the dugout,” he said. “I don’t understand that.”
Irving escaped further damage in the frame, but his night was done after five innings. The Ohio State recruit allowed six hits, two runs (both earned), two walks and struck out eight.
After the fifth, the two teams never officially scored another run.
The Cougars gave themselves plenty of other chances, putting runners in scoring position in innings seven through 10, a runner on third in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings, and loading the bases in the ninth and 10th innings. But they came away empty each time.
A night after it left 10 men on base in a 6-3 home loss to Perry Meridian, G-C stranded 16 vs. Greenwood.
On the bright side, the Cougars received an exemplary relief effort from lefty Brendon Neal, who threw five scoreless innings, allowing one hit. He walked four (two intentionally) and fanned 10, ending the final four frames on punch-outs.
“They were on. They were both really dealing,” Murphy said of Irving and Neal. “It was fun to watch.”
G-C’s two hurlers got help from their defense. Adam Rains, who registered an unassisted double play against Perry, dove to his right to snag a hard-hit grounder in the fourth and threw to first for the out.
In the bottom of the eighth, Kersey made a twisting, turning catch in right field on a high fly ball that hung up in the lights.
Despite the tie, the dugout restriction and his team’s continued woes with runners left on base, Murphy was more than all right afterwards.
“You can’t really simulate the pressure kids put on themselves when they come to Victory Field. It was a great experience,” he said. “It would’ve been greater had we been able to finish, but it was a great experience.”
Notes: Jackson reached base in all six plate appearances. He had three hits and walked in his final three at-bats. … Irving was the only other G-C player with more than one hit. … Also pitching for Greenwood were Jon Bowen, Aaron Murray and Sam Orem. … Woodmen manager Andy Bass received a dugout restriction from the field umpire later in the game. … The announced attendance was 1,212 for both games of the doubleheader, the first of which was Mt. Vernon-Fishers. … The Cougars play New Castle (5-1) Wednesday. Greenwood hosts Whiteland (0-2) today.
Greenfield-Central 2, Greenwood 2, 10 innings
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
GC (6-3-1) 101 000 000 0 — 2 7 0
GW (5-2-1) 001 010 000 0 — 2 7 1
Two or more hits: Jackson, Irving, Kersey (GC); Underwood, Fink, Beidelman (GW). 2B: Jackson (GC), Honeycutt (GW). SB: Neal (GC); Krupa (GW). SAC Bunt: Gibson (GC), Bailey (GW). LOB: GC 16, GW 11.