There are 23 high school teams mentioned in the most recent Class 4A baseball poll, including those relegated to “also receiving votes” status.
Noticeably absent is Center Grove.
Second-year Trojans coach Keith Hatfield could shrug his shoulders, or take the “why us?” route over this somewhat baffling omission, but the man has a team to coach.
A 13-2 team, that is.
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One still in contention for the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference championship with an x-x league record after Tuesday’s home game against Ben Davis.
“It doesn’t bother us at all. We just go out and play, and whatever people think of us doesn’t matter,” senior pitcher/first baseman Jade Doyle said. “As long as we keep winning.”
The reasons why Center Grove habitually wins are many, ranging from a team on-base percentage of .443, a pitching staff exceeding expectations or the fact the Trojans have made good on all but six of their 37 stolen base attempts.
Defensively, the Trojans field at a .943 clip. Hatfield wasn’t necessarily expecting the overall win percentage to be in the same general neighborhood.
“I knew it was possible, but I wasn’t about to say we would win 13 of our first 15 games,” Hatifeld said. “And I knew it was possible because of the core group of all the offensive and defensive players we had returning.
“But we still haven’t gone through (Class 4A No. 5) Lawrence North. It’s going to be a tough stretch to finish this off.”
Center fielder Devon Hensley hits .367 as Center Grove’s leadoff man. The senior owns team-high numbers in doubles (tied with Will Smithey with five), home runs (four), RBI (14) and steals (10), while his 18 runs scored ranks second.
Second baseman Eathan Stephen (.321, three doubles, four steals) bats second, while senior catcher Nathaniel Coy (.278, team-high 19 runs) and third baseman Smithey (.354, 12 RBI) are in the Nos. 3 and 4 spots, respectively.
One of two Joshes — seniors Hart and Martin — hits next in the order. Martin, who can be penciled in just about anywhere on the field, owns the Trojans’ highest batting average at .387.
Doyle (.309, 13 RBI), junior right fielder Tye Thixton (.302, 13 runs), left fielder Jake Cantleberry and junior shortstop Joey Drury (.238, three doubles) make up the bottom part of the order.
“Our lineup is very solid top-to-bottom,” Doyle said. “It seems like we put up quite a lot of numbers every game.”
Center Grove averaged 7.7 runs per its first 15 outings. For sake of comparison, last season’s 18-10 Trojans averaged 6.9.
The Trojans’ surprisingly potent pitching staff is led by Cantleberry, a laser-throwing junior left-hander who is 4-0 with a 0.46 ERA. His 30 2/3 innings of work are highlighted by 52 strikeouts compared to only nine walks.
Center Grove’s other nine victories have been credited to six pitchers: Doyle, Hart, junior Connor Cantrell, soph Jack Kellams, Lucas Hays and Zach Wells.
All this accomplishment and not a single vote from those responsible for piecing together the weekly Class 4A poll.
Not that Hatfield is losing any sleep over it.
“It doesn’t matter at all. Last week we got votes, then we win six in a row and then we get no votes,” he said. “The players would probably like to be ranked, but to be honest we haven’t said a word about it.”
Friday;Jennings County, 6 p.m.
Monday;Brownsburg, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday;at Pike, 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday;Pike, 5:30 p.m.
May 15;Franklin, 5:30 p.m.
CLASS 4A POLL