It’s a delicate balance, attempting to win a baseball game while revealing as little about your team as humanly possible.
Center Grove coach Keith Hatfield and his counterpart, Franklin’s Ryan Feyerabend, will soon lead their squads at the same Class 4A sectional. However, Friday night at Trojan Field was about bragging rights of a more local nature.
The top-ranked Trojans rallied with five runs in the top of the sixth inning to erase a one-run deficit and pull away from Franklin for a 9-3 victory in the title game of the Johnson County tournament.
With Center Grove (20-2-1), it’s a matter of when, not if.
Against the Grizzly Cubs, the when was the top of the sixth; the Trojans were the designated road team on their own field.
“I mean, we know what kind of team we are. We know with the skill we have, we can put the bat on the ball,” said Trojans senior shortstop Tyler Cerny, who made his share of fielding gems in a game loaded with impressive glove work from both squads.
“It’s all about staying within yourself and staying focused.”
Center Grove tallied a pair of runs in the first inning as Franklin senior pitcher Logen Devenport struggled with his control.
Drew Culbertson and Mitchell Evans drew one-out walks, and a wild pitch moved them to third and second base, respectively. Owen Guilfoy took a 2-2 offering up the middle for a single, and Garrison Barile drove in the other run when his rocket shot bounced past the glove of Cubs freshman shortstop Landen Basey.
The Grizzly Cubs took the lead with a three-run second, powered by senior first baseman Drew Doty’s towering first-pitch home run that cleared the left field fence with room to spare. Junior Jackson Henry had gotten things started with a single to right, followed by Pryce Rucker’s double to deep right field.
Center Grove tied it with a run in the fifth. Evans’ infield single was followed by a Guilfoy double, with the former making it home when Barile hit into a fielder’s choice.
Devenport settled down after the first but allowed consecutive singles from the Trojans’ Nos. 7 and 8 hitters in the top of the sixth inning and was eventually replaced by Henry. Center Grove took the lead for good when Cerny singled to right on a 0-1 pitch from Henry to score junior Evan Zapp.
Culbertson and Evans each doubled, Guilfoy singled and another run came home on a Grizzly Cub throwing error.
“Logen is a great pitcher, but our approach at the start of the game was probably not the right one we should’ve taken,” Cerny said. “His curveball was working well, and we were missing some fastballs, I think. There at the end, we had good plate IQ to take the pitch where it was pitched and hit it.”
Meanwhile, Trojans junior pitcher Jacob Murphy responded nicely after getting roughed up in the second frame. The right-hander worked a complete game, allowing five hits, walking one and striking out six.
“He missed a couple spots, but (Franklin) just put good swings on it,” Hatfield said. “They’re hitting .320-something as a team. It’s not a bad hitting team at all. I didn’t expect Jacob to be perfect, but you just kind of leave him alone.
“If he asks me a question, I’ll talk to him. Other than that, just let him be to do his thing. I knew he was fine. Defensively, we were really, really good. A very clean game.”
Zapp finished with three singles for the Trojans with Evans and Guilfoy providing two hits apiece. For Franklin (15-7), Basey, who bats leadoff, singled twice.