GREENFIELD — Greenfield-Central won’t successfully defend its 2013 Hoosier Heritage Conference baseball title. Shelbyville made sure of that Saturday.
Without improvement, the Cougars won’t win a second straight sectional championship, either.
The visiting Class 4A No. 6-ranked Golden Bears swept Greenfield-Central 8-3 and 5-4 Saturday to clinch its first HHC title since 2002. Shelbyville entered the day at 7-1 in the conference; reigning champ G-C was second at 6-2. The sweep by the Golden Bears (17-2 overall) made this weekend’s final conference matchups a moot point where the title chase is concerned.
Except for a few too many walks, G-C starter Hayden Kissee did a commendable job keeping Shelbyville’s usually potent offense in check in Game 1 Saturday. The Golden Bears, with a .323 team average, were held to five hits over five innings by the G-C right-hander. But Shelbyville had a 5-2 advantage through five innings thanks in part to a two-out Greenfield error in the third inning, another two-out error in the fourth and a passed ball in the fifth. A third error in the sixth frame led to three more Shelbyville runs. With the miscues, all eight of Shelbyville’s runs in the opener were unearned.
“They’re good, but we didn’t play well,” said G-C coach Brian Murphy, who guided the club to an 11-3 conference mark a year ago (teams will play only 12 HHC games this season). “We didn’t come and attack. We came and sat
back and waited for them to beat us. We always talk about, ‘If you make a mistake, fine. But make aggressive mistakes.’ The mistakes we made were not aggressive mistakes. The mistakes we made were passive … and obviously it will get you swept.”
The Golden Bears drew seven walks off Kissee and reliever Jared Banton, and four of the players earning free passes eventually crossed the plate. With Shelbyville ace Ethan Larrison (5-0, 2.44 ERA) in full command – 13 strikeouts and one walk in seven complete innings – Game 2 couldn’t come soon enough for the sluggish Cougars.
To its credit, G-C’s resolve in the nightcap was more apropos of a championship contender. The G-C defense was error free and the home team out-hit its counterpart 10-7.
At the plate, the Cougars’ leadoff hitter reached base in five of seven innings, but they could never do serious damage off Shelbyville starter Chase McColley (4-0, 2.45 ERA), settling for single runs in the second, third, fourth and sixth innings. In the second frame, the Cougars left the bases loaded, and two more were stranded in the fifth.
While G-C left nine runners on base in Game 2, Shelbyville took advantage of its opportunities, stranding only four while mounting a four-hit, three-run third inning to take a 3-2 lead. In the bottom of the fifth of a 3-3 game, Shelbyville’s Daniel Kuhn singled to lead off the inning and Conner Hasecuster followed with a two-run home run.
Kissee smacked a solo home run in the sixth to cut G-C’s deficit to 5-4, and G-C’s Drey Jameson singled to open the seventh inning. He was eventually stranded, however, as Shelbyville closer Austin Peugh shut the door.
“It was a better effort (in Game 2), but another frustrating one,” Murphy said. “We had our chances. But we did some little things wrong, like ‘If we do something right there, maybe we can scratch another run or two across.’ And we don’t do it. I’m talking about routine stuff you’re supposed to do every time at the plate that we’re not doing.
“Shelbyville’s good enough that they might have beaten us anyway, but we didn’t give ourselves the best chance to win.”
Kissee’s solo home run was the second of the day for the Cougars. Slater Rush had a solo shot in the fourth inning of Game 1. Rush, who finished the opener 2-for-3, scored two of G-C’s three runs. Kissee had a double in the opener and scored G-C’s first run following a double by Mitch Gibson.
The Cougars will finish off HHC play Friday at home against Yorktown (12-10, 4-7 HHC) in what will be mostly sectional preparation, although New Palestine (17-8, 5-5 HHC) could pass G-C for second place in the final conference standings.
The state tourney draw is today, and G-C will host 4A Sectional 9 beginning May 28. As part of a 23-8-1 season last spring, the Cougars beat Connersville 6-3 in the sectional title game, then lost 3-0 to eventual state runner-up Cathedral in the regional semifinal.
Murphy said time is running out for the Cougars to find title-winning mental toughness.
“We keep working on defense and stuff, but it’s not talent,” he said. “We’re not locked in. That’s the most frustrating part. It’s not the reps, it’s not the talent, we’re just not locked in. We’re not attacking.
“We’re hanging out think that wins are going to come our way. That doesn’t happen very often against good teams.”
Gibson’s change of plans
Gibson, the Cougars’ starting shortstop and a right-hander ranked third on the team in innings pitched, went 3-for-6 Saturday with a walk. The senior upped his season average to .424, and he entered the doubleheader with a 2.29 ERA. Gibson’s stats are impressive, but it was a first-hand look at the young man that apparently impressed Ball State head coach Rich Maloney.
Nick Maloney, the son of the Cardinals’ coach, plays for Delta. And it was during the Cougars’ doubleheader in Greenfield last Friday that coach Maloney caught a glimpse of Gibson in action.
“My dad and mom and coaches I’ve had in the past always said, ‘You never know who’s watching,’” said Gibson, who originally planned to play baseball for Kaskaskia Junior College in Illinois, but was offered a spot on Ball State’s team a few days after the Delta doubleheader.
On Saturday, May 10, Gibson received a phone call from the Cardinals’ coaching staff inviting Gibson to hang out at a BSU game against Kent State the following day. Maloney and Gibson chatted afterwards.
“He said, ‘You have a really quick arm,’” Gibson recalled. “He said, ‘We can make you a Cardinal if you want to be a Cardinal.’ I talked to my parents that night and we felt like that was the right place to go.
“The plan was to go to Kaskaskia to get to a Division I program anyway. So it just made sense.”
Shelbyville 8, Greenfield-Central 3
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
SH 001 313 0 — 8 6 0
GC 001 100 1 — 3 6 3
WP: Larrison (5-0). LP: Kissee (3-1).
SH: Kuhn 3-3, 3 runs scored; Eads 2B; Mathies 2 R; Larrison 7 IP, 13 K, 1 BB, 2 ER.
GC: Rush 2-3, HR, 2 R; Pribble 2B; Kissee 2B (5 IP, 8 K, 0 ER); Gibson 2-2, 2B, RBI.
Shelbyville 5, Greenfield-Central 4
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
GC (11-9, 6-4 HHC) 011 101 0 — 4 10 0
SH (17-2, 9-1 HHC) 003 020 X — 5 7 0
WP: McColley (4-0). LP: Gibson (2-4). SV: Peugh (4)
GC: Jameson 2-4; Adams 2B; Rush 2B; Kissee HR; Jackson 2B.
SH: McColley 6 IP, 5 K, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB; Kuhn 2-2, 2 SB, 2 R; Hasecuster 2-3, HR, 2B, 2 RBI; Lux 2-3.