PENDLETON — Greenfield-Central sophomore Kristen Wineinger hit the go-ahead home run in the second inning, and then helped add some insurance runs with her hustling infield single in the third.

It all led to the Cougars avenging a regular season loss to Hancock County and Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Mt. Vernon with a 7-5 victory in the first of two semifinal softball games in the Pendleton Heights Sectional and Legends Field Wednesday.

Both teams had doubles, RBI-singles and three-run home runs in the first inning.

With it 4-4 in the top of the second, Wineinger hit her third home run of the year, a solo shot, to give Greenfield-Central a 5-4 advantage.

She caught the third out, leaping from her shortstop position to snag a line drive with a runner in scoring position, to end Mt. Vernon’s second, and went back at it on offense to start the third.

After Makenna Rankins and Addison Heacox hit singles, LeiLeanna Faitele moved them over with a sacrifice bunt. With two outs, Wineinger hit a slow roller to short, she hustled down the line and dove head first safely across the bag. Rankins scored. A throw to third to try to get Heacox went wild, enabling her to score and Wineinger to get to third base.

“When I saw it was a light ground ball (I knew) I needed to beat it out. I needed to get there,” Wineinger said.

It was all the offense Greenfield-Central needed, too, to help secure a win over the Marauders. Mt. Vernon had won the last three meetings, including a sectional game in 2022.

“Our energy was up the whole time,” Wineinger said of the key to the Cougars win. “We had to keep it up or they were going to get on us. They’re a good team, they hit. We just had to keep going.”

Leilani Forshey got the Cougars going in the first inning with her 13th home run of the season.

Wineinger led the game off by being hit by pitch. Savvanna Riall followed with a double to left field. Charlotte Riehle hit an RBI-single to right field before Forshey pasted one over the left field fence.

“(The) early part of the year, she hadn’t hit any and then she had a week where she hit six and has just lit it up from there,” first-year G-C head coach Gary Roberts said of Forshey’s power.

The teams got off to similar pace to their regular season meeting, a 14-13 victory by Mt. Vernon on April 26 at Greenfield-Central.

Right after the Cougars put four on the board, the Marauders had a nearly identical inning.

Emma Jenkins had a three-run homer. Shelby Rakosky had a double and Easton Wampler had an RBI-single and Mikayla Oger had a single right before Jenkins tied it.

In the three hour-plus regular season meeting, there were 27 runs, 26 walks, three hit batters, six different pitchers, four home runs, six errors, and 19 hits. Mt. Vernon had a five-run second and seven-run fifth. G-C scored in five of seven at-bats. Mt. Vernon’s Graci Hines had a grand slam and Riall, Forshey and Rankins each hit homers.

The runs were going up quickly Wednesday, too, but Roberts thought a late pitching change could help slow it down.

In the fourth, Mt. Vernon leadoff hitter Rakosky hit her second double of the game and No. 2 hitter Ainsley Baer had one of her own to cut the lead to 7-5.

Greenfield-Central hard-throwing starter Madysen Herbert was able to retire six of the next seven batters, but when the lineup cycled back to Rakosky at the top of the order, it was time to make a change.

“We knew they were on the fourth time around and we wanted to show them a little something different, get some ground balls, get some outs and not give up home runs. They are capable of hitting home runs,” Roberts said.

“The first time (we played Mt. Vernon) we had a really rough strike zone and both teams struggled with it,” Roberts added. “(Wednesday) we had a nice, good strike zone that everybody knew what to work with. Our pitchers exploited what they were giving us, a little bit off the plate, and we took advantage of that. Bringing in a dropball pitcher at the end threw them off guard.”

Addison Heacox, a freshman, went from second base to the circle.

After Rakosky singled, she retired Baer and Wampler, the Marauders’ leader in home runs with five, to end the inning.

Mt. Vernon was able to get one more baserunner in the seventh. Graci Hines led off by getting on with a dropped third strike. They weren’t the ground balls that Roberts expected, but a foul pop up, fly ball to left and strikeout ended the game.

“Right before the game we talked about keeping our energy up and being focused. …. After (they scored their four runs) we just knew we had to keep going. We were on the pitcher all night and making good contact, we just had to keep working together,” Wineinger said.

The Cougars will meet another county and conference rival in Thursday’s 6 p.m. championship. New Palestine beat Pendleton Heights in Wednesday’s second semifinal, 9-0. Again, the Cougars will try to avenge a regular season loss. On May 2, the Dragons beat the Cougars 16-2.

“I don’t know how long it’s been since we (have been in a sectional championship game), but we’re playing teams in our conference so it’s always tough,” Roberts said. “New Pal has a great lineup … We just have to come with the same intensity we did today and play like we did today.”

Greenfield-Central 7, Mt. Vernon 5

Greenfield-Central (12-11);412;000;0—;7;12;0

Mt. Vernon (9-14);400;100;0—;5;9;1

Graci Hines and Easton Wampler; Madysen Herbert, Addison Heacox (6) and Charlotte Riehle. 2B: G-C – Savvanna Riall. MV: Shelby Rakosky 2, Ainsley Baer. HR: G-C – Leilani Forshey (13), Kristen Wineinger (3). MV – Emma Jenkins (4). WP: Herbert (5-3). LP: Hines (4-2). S: Heacox (2)