Herbert tosses one-hit shutout to lead Cougars past Marauders

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Greenfield-Central’s Madysen Herbert winds up on the mound against Mt. Vernon on Friday, April 29, 2022. Herbert pitched a one-hit shutout to secure the win for Greenfield-Central, 3-0, against the Marauders. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — Madysen Herbert was oblivious from start to finish and a little nervous throughout on Friday night.

That tunnel vision mixed with seven-innings of adrenaline came in handy, as the up-and-coming frosh pitched a one-hit, complete-game shutout to silence the visiting Marauders, 3-0.

Slowed by a back injury, which sidelined her for two weeks, Herbert returned three days ago with two innings pitched in a 21-day span.

Against Mt. Vernon, Herbert was grateful to even be in the circle again, and by the end she proved to be nearly unhittable.

“She’s been battling some stuff for awhile. She’s been out the last two weeks, and I challenged her yesterday. I said, ‘I don’t care if I get one inning out of you, two innings or three innings. You give me what you have and your absolute best and we’ll go from there,’” Greenfield-Central head coach Jason Stewart said. “When you’re pitching hard and you have that adrenaline, it’s funny how the pain goes away a little bit.”

Herbert carried a no-hitter through the first five innings against Hoosier Heritage Conference foe Mt. Vernon (4-5, 1-1 HHC), and while her back has been problematic, there was nothing wrong with her right arm.

Herbert finished the game with four strikeouts, three walks, two hit batters and one hit allowed to Mya Fields in the top of the sixth. She retired seven consecutive batters stretching from the final third of the first through the third.

“It was very nerve-racking, especially being a freshman going into it and playing a really good team. It was scary,” Herbert said. “I had no idea (I had a no-hitter). I wasn’t paying attention.

“I hated being out. I hated every minute of it. I wanted to come back in and play. I tried to push myself, so my rehab would go quicker, and I tried to come out to practice as much as I could just so I could come back stronger.”

Her last outing against HHC opponent Delta on Tuesday resulted in four earned runs surrendered in two frames.

Her performance against Mt. Vernon marked her second one-hit appearance of the season, but it was also longer than the first, which spanned only three innings on March 31.

“I wanted it for that kid. I really wanted her to finish that game,” Stewart said. “We made some plays, and you could see her confidence as she went, even from the first inning.”

The Marauders had two runners in scoring position in the top of the first, but Herbert induced two pop ups and a strikeout to escape unscathed.

A fielding error in shallow center field in the top of the fourth turned into an out at second base kept the Marauders’ base runners stuck at first before Mt. Vernon threatened again in the sixth.

A leadoff error put Shelby Rakosky on first base before Fields’ connected with a bunt single to break up the no-no. A walk drawn by Easton Wampler loaded the bases with no outs.

Herbert induced a pop up for the first out, and a runner inference call for another out kept the bases loaded but prevented the Marauders from scoring. A deep fly to left field for the final out retained the shutout bid for Herbert.

Offensively, the Cougars backed their starter with six hits, but it took patience against Marauders’ ace Graci Hines, a freshman.

Hines struck out 12, walked one and the Mt. Vernon defense kept the Cougars at bay until a leadoff single by Josie White initiated a two-run bottom of the fourth.

Olivia Roberts (1-for-2) drove in White with a double down the third-base line, and Morgan Hornaday laced a one-out, RBI single up the middle to put G-C up 2-0 after four innings.

“We really needed this win. I’ve been hitting pretty good lately, but it’s always nervous in these types of games. It’s just really nice to get a hit for my team in this type of atmosphere,” Roberts said.

“She’s probably one of the top pitchers we’ve faced, so it was kind of hard to adjust coming off seeing slower pitchers, but I’m glad we made it work.”

Hines retired six consecutive batters, but the Cougars connected for two doubles — one by White in the fifth — and a mammoth solo home run by LeiLeanna Faitele for an insurance run in the same frame.

Faitele crushed her four-bagger with one out and after being hit by a pitch. The pitch was called a ball despite hitting her as the home plate umpire ruled she intentionally leaned into the offering.

With a 1-2 count, Faitele took advantage of the restarted at-bat.

“She’s been hit, I believe, 10 times already. I joke with her that I’m going to look it up and see if there is a state record on it,” Stewart said. “But, the kid has ridiculous power. She took a change-up and hit it off her front foot and shot a rocket out of left field with that. Once she learns some discipline at the plate, she’s going to be a dangerous kid.”

Hines stranded White on second base to end the inning with her 11th strikeout.

“Give Mt. Vernon’s pitcher some credit. She’s going to be a pain for four years, but we have a pretty darn good one, too,” Stewart said. “That was a great game pitching by both teams. We could tell right away this was going to be a dogfight. We’ve faced some really good pitching between Mt. Vernon and Yorktown the past couple of nights, and I think our confidence has waned a little bit, and we have some kids battling some stuff physically, and it’s been tough.”

The Cougars gritted it out, especially Herbert, who turned a key double play in the top of the seventh after hitting the first batter she faced. The third and final out was an unassisted putout at first base.

“That made me so happy. That was probably the best play I’ve made all year,” Herbert remarked on the 1-6-3 double play in the seventh.

The Cougars improved to 8-4 on the season and 2-1 in the HHC. The win was the program’s fourth in five games.

“I was really proud of (Madysen),” Roberts said. “We were a little nervous tonight, but she did really good.”

The Cougars host HHC foe New Castle on Monday, while the Marauders travel to Noblesville on Monday.

Greenfield-Central 3, Mt. Vernon 0

Mt. Vernon (4-5, 1-1);000;000;0;—;0;1;0

Greenfield-Central (8-4, 2-1);000;210;x;—;3;6;2

HR: LeiLeanna Faitele (GC). 2B: Josie White (GC), Olivia Roberts (GC).

WP: Madysen Herbert (7.0 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 2 HB, 4 K). LP: Graci Hines (6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 12 K, BB).