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Trojans split baseball doubleheader with Cougars

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New Castle’s Bryce Huntley is all smiles heading for home plate after blasting a two-out solo home run against Greenfield-Central in the bottom of the sixth inning during the second game of a Hoosier Heritage Conference baseball doubleheader Saturday afternoon at Molinder Field. The round-tripper gave the visiting Trojans a 3-1 lead, and it proved to be the difference as they held on for a 3-2 victory over the Cougars to gain a split of the twin bill.
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Greenfield-Central pitcher Blake Wilson hurls the ball toward the plate against a New Castle batter during the first game of a Hoosier Heritage Conference baseball doubleheader Saturday afternoon at Molinder Field. Wilson stifled the Trojan offense, allowing no runs, two hits, and three walks while striking out six hitters in five innings to become the winning pitcher as the host Cougars won game one 7-0.
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New Castle batter Jackson Malott takes the first pitch he sees from Greenfield-Central hurler Blake Wilson during his first-at bat in game one of a Hoosier Heritage Conference baseball doubleheader Saturday afternoon at Molinder Field. Malott got the visiting Trojans’ first hit on the next pitch, but didn’t score in New Castle’s 7-0 game one loss to the Cougars. Malott had three RBI in the Trojans’ 6-4 loss to Daleville April 5.
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New Castle pitcher Rylan Huntley fires the ball toward the plate against a Greenfield-Central batter during the second game of a Hoosier Heritage Conference baseball doubleheader Saturday afternoon at Molinder Field. Huntley went the distance on the mound for the win, giving up two runs, four hits, and seven walks while striking out seven batters, as the visiting Trojans held off the Cougars 3-2 to gain a split of the twin bill.
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New Castle junior Logan Cline (11) leads off first base after reaching on an error in the bottom of the second inning as Greenfield-Central first baseman Seth Robertson (33) keeps an eye on him during Saturday afternoon’s second game of a Hoosier Heritage Conference baseball doubleheader at Molinder Field. Cline knocked in the Trojans’ first run with a single in the fourth inning as they edged the Cougars 3-2 in the nightcap to gain a split of the twin bill.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

GREENFIELD — The playing surface was in pretty good shape at Molinder Field for a Hoosier Heritage Conference baseball doubleheader Saturday afternoon between New Castle and host Greenfield-Central.

The visiting Trojans didn’t have much to show for their efforts in game one in a 7-0 loss, but got a very good pitching performance from junior Rylan Huntley, some timely hits, and held on for a 3-2 victory in the nightcap for a split of the doubleheader against the Cougars.

These were the first games for Greenfield this season. New Castle improved to 1-2 and stands 1-1 in the HHC.

“Coming off the Daleville game, we practiced a little bit yesterday before the weather forced us to quit,” New Castle Coach Brad King said, “and then we came out flat the first game and didn’t do much of anything. To get the win in the second game of a conference doubleheader was huge for us. If we started the season 0-3, we might go into the tank a little, but the win gives a big boost of confidence to our team. Six of our guys who started at Daleville never had played in a varsity game before.”

Saturday’s games had been postponed from Friday night, there was some overnight snow, and temperatures stayed in the 30s for the duration of the doubleheader, but sunny skies made the conditions appear a tad warmer.

Cougar pitching dominated the Trojans in the first game. Junior starter Blake Wilson pitched five innings of shutout ball, giving up two hits, three walks, and striking out six batters. Junior Bradley McDowell mopped up in relief, tossing two perfect innings and fanning another three Trojan hitters.

New Castle starting pitcher, senior Bryce Huntley, had a rocky first inning and gave up three runs, but all of them were unearned. Wilson led off the bottom of the frame by singling to left field on a 3-2 pitch. Huntley induced the next two batters to fly out and foul out.

With two away, Wilson moved to second on a wild pitch and Nick Atwood walked on a full count. Braxton Turner then grounded to the fielder, but the ball went through his legs for an error with Wilson scoring on the play and Atwood moving to third base and Turner to second on the throw-in.

Seth Robertson then stepped up and singled to centerfield, driving in both Atwood and Turner for a 3-0 Greenfield lead. Huntley struck out the next batter to end the inning.

The Trojans got their only hits in the top of the second inning. Jackson Malott led off with a hard-hit ground ball that handcuffed the third baseman and beat the wild throw to first, but was tagged out trying to reach second base on the play.

Rylan Huntley followed with an infield hit, stole second base, and went to third on Bryce Huntley’s groundout. But New Castle didn’t score as the next batter lined out hard to right field.

Wilson issued a one-out walk to Janson Anderson in the top of the fourth inning, and back-to-back free passes to Logan Cline and Triston Chesher with one away in the top of the fifth. None, of course, scored and those were the final Trojans to reach base in the first game.

The Cougars added three runs to their advantage in the last of the fourth inning. Turner led off with a double to centerfield off Bryce Huntley. Wyatt Deno came in to courtesy run for Turner and stole third base.

Huntley then plunked Robertson in the back and McDowell on the wrist to load the bags. Dawson Davis came in to courtesy run for McDowell. Designated hitter Lucas Gibson followed with a blooper that fell into short right centerfield for a hit, plating both Deno and Robertson with Davis taking third on the play.

Davis crossed home plate on a ground ball out by Mason Bussel for a 6-0 Greenfield lead. Huntley walked Wilson on a 3-2 pitch, but Wilson was forced out at second base on Noah Ramsey’s grounder to retire the side.

“I thought Bryce Huntley pitched a nice game for us,” King noted. “We just didn’t give much offensive or defensive support behind him.”

Senior Bryce Pinkard came in to pitch in relief for New Castle in the bottom of the fifth inning. Sophomore Adam Hutchison led off for the Cougars by clubbing a 0-2 pitch to the right field fence for a double. With one away, Hutchison took third on a wild pitch and Turner walked on a 3-2 pitch.

Robertson was called out by batter interference as Turner attempted to steal second base. With two away, McDowell laced a hit to centerfield and Hutchison scored for a 7-0 advantage, but Turner was cut down trying to reach third base for the final out of the inning.

Pinkard issued a two-out walk to Wilson in the last of the sixth inning, but he didn’t score. That was it, as McDowell effectively shut down the Trojans the rest of the way in a contest that took 1:58 of playing time to complete.

Since it was an HHC doubleheader, New Castle was the home team for the second game, which turned out to be a pitchers’ duel between Trojan junior Rylan Huntley and Greenfield sophomore Adam Hutchison. Both went the distance in the contest.

The Cougars had 12 baserunners in the game compared to just eight for New Castle, but Greenfield stranded seven of them on the base paths compared to four for the Trojans.

The first 3 1/2 innings were fairly quick and uneventful with no scoring. Rylan Huntley yielded only a one-out single to McDowell in the top of the second inning (whom he picked off base) and three walks during his first four innings on the mound, and another batter reached on error but was picked off by trying to steal second base by catcher Hunter McCubbins.

“I thought Rylan pitched a great game for us,” King explained. “He went the distance on just two pitches, a curveball and fastball, and his curveball was fantastic and moving well. I also thought Hunter (McCubbins) played a great game behind the plate and was in control back there.”

In his first three innings, Hutchison gave up a lead-off double to Rylan Huntley in the last of the second (who was tagged out between second and third base) and a lone walk to Janson Anderson. Logan Cline reached base on an error, but was forced out at second base.

Things changed in the bottom of the fourth inning, and it all happened with two outs. Rylan Huntley singled to left field on a 1-1 pitch and stole second base. Bryce Huntley battled back from a 1-2 count to draw a base on balls. Cline followed with a single to right field that plated Rylan Huntley and Bryce Huntley scored after a throwing error on the play for a 2-0 New Castle lead with Cline moving to second.

Colin Holcomb came in to courtesy run for Cline but Hutchison struck out the next batter to end the inning.

In the fifth inning, Rylan Huntley gave up a lead-off walk to McDowell in the top of the frame, who stole second base but was left stranded there. McCubbins got a one-out single in the last of the inning but didn’t score.

The Cougars scored their first run in the top of the sixth inning. Noah Ramsey led off with a five-pitch walk and Hutchison followed with a double to the right field fence to put both runners in scoring position with no outs. Rylan Huntley whiffed Atwood on four pitches, but a dropped third strike enabled Ramsey to score on the catcher-to-first throw to retire Atwood with Hutchison taking third.

But Rylan Huntley induced Turner to line to Cline at third base and Robertson to pop-up to Pinkard at first, and got out of the frame without any further damage.

The Trojans got a valuable (and needed) insurance run in the bottom of the sixth with two outs as Bryce Huntley launched Hutchison’s first offering to him over the right centerfield fence for a solo home run and 3-1 New Castle advantage.

“That run was huge for us,” King stated. “If he hadn’t hit it out, we’d still be playing. He’s another example of a guy who is taking advantage of his opportunity this year and is making the most of it.”

Greenfield rallied in its last at-bat in the top of the seventh inning to make it really interesting. With one out, Grant Hinton walked on four pitches and Dalton Pebworth came in to courtesy run for him. Bussel got an infield hit, and Wilson’s fielder’s choice grounder forced Bussel at second base leaving runners at the corners with two away.

Ramsey’s double to right field plated Pebworth to trim the Trojan lead to 3-2 and Wilson was at third base and Ramsey second with the tying and go-ahead runs.

Hutchison was intentionally walked to fill the sacks, and Huntley induced Atwood to ground out shortstop to first to end the contest after an elapsed playing time of 1:44.

“Our guys are beginning to understand what it takes to play at the varsity level,” King added, “and are making the necessary adjustments and improvements to succeed. We have a busy schedule this next week and hope to tack on some more wins.”

Rylan Huntley picked up the win and his line in seven innings was two runs, four hits, and seven walks with seven strikeouts. Hutchison absorbed the loss and his line in six innings was three runs, five hits, two walks, and nine strikeouts.

“When the sun came out, it wasn’t too bad and actually it was a pretty good day to play baseball,” Rylan Huntley said. “We had been practicing all winter and our hard work showed up in the second game. My curveball was working really well today as I was getting it in on the inside corner, but my fastball just wasn’t there today.”

After hosting Waldron Monday evening, New Castle travels to Rushville today.