No need reminding Center Grove baseball coach Keith Hatfield how difficult it is beating the same team three times in a single season.
After all, he’s had four days to think about it.
Lack of familiarity won’t be an issue this afternoon when the fifth-ranked Trojans square off against Greenwood in a first-round game of the Class 4A Whiteland Sectional.
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Center Grove used a monster fifth inning to defeat Greenwood 11-2 in April. The county rivals met again Saturday at the Johnson County Tournament, with the Trojans posting a 3-0 semifinal victory.
Junior left-hander Jake Cantleberry gets the call for the Trojans after a splendid regular season in which he pitched 42 2/3 innings for a 6-1 record and 0.80 ERA. Cantleberry has struck out 74 batters and walked only 12 so far.
The Woodmen lead all county teams in stolen bases with 77. Senior catcher/outfielder Brayton Buchanan and sophomore outfielder Dylan Rosado have 18 apiece.
“The April game isn’t as important for scouting, but we can use it to learn some things about their hitters,” said Hatfield, whose club finished the regular season 21-5 and won the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference title.
“Greenwood does have speed, so you can’t let the leadoff hitter get on base,” Hatfield said. “And their pitchers always compete and keep them in games. Even in the 11-2 game it was a 5-2 game going into the bottom of the fifth.”
The Whiteland Sectional isn’t scheduled to resume until Monday, when the semifinal and championship games are played.
Hatfield doesn’t see this as a distraction should his team advance.
“We’ve gone once or twice this season with four days off,” he said. “It’s when you get to five or six days that it gets to be tougher on the hitters not seeing live pitching.”
By drawing a bye to semifinal play, tournament-host Whiteland looked to be in such a position, a nine-day gap separating Saturday’s loss to Center Grove in the county finale from Monday’s game against Franklin.
The Warriors tried to rectify this. With some last-minute scheduling, Whiteland hopes to face Southport on Tuesday at Franklin College. But the game was rained out.
The game had been scheduled for a neutral field so that Whiteland workers could have additional time to prepare the school’s facility for today’s game.
“Obviously, as far as playing one less (sectional) game that’s a little bit of an advantage. The downside is there’s a long layoff after weeks of playing three or four games. We had stretches this season where we had five games in a week,” Warriors coach Scott Sherry said.
Four of the five programs feeding into the Whiteland site are from Johnson County, the other being Franklin Central. It’s why local rivals sometimes have to play three times per season the way Center Grove and Greenwood are.
“It’s a competitive sectional where the kids all know each other. It’s an advantage in that you know tendencies, but it’s also a disadvantage because you’re trying to beat a team three or four times in the same season,” Sherry said. “It’s just the psyche of the kids.”
Center Grove (16-4) vs. Greenwood (14-12), 5:30 p.m.
Greencastle (11-10) at Indian Creek (8-10), 6 p.m.
Southwestern/Morristown winner vs. Edinburgh (7-13), 7:30 p.m.
At Bethesda Christian
Greenwood Christian Academy (12-10) vs. University (9-13). 10 a.m.