Center Grove High School sophomore pitcher Jacob Gilcrest likes the way the Trojans are heading into the postseason.
“We have lot of momentum going into sectionals,” Gilcrest said. “If we play like we can, we can beat anybody.”
Gilcrest tossed a two-hit shutout as the host Trojans (21-3) won their second consecutive Johnson County Baseball Tournament championship Saturday by shutting out Whiteland 4-0.
“We’ve gained a lot of momentum from winning MIC (Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference),” senior Tye Thixton said. “Now winning county, (the) next thing is sectional, regional, semistate and state.
“We’re ready to get that state trophy.”
Thixton led off the bottom of the first inning with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly by Will Smithey.
Center Grove boosted its lead to 4-0 in the second inning with three runs on three hits, a batter hit by pitch and an error.
“It helps to get some runs early. I got in a groove and stayed in it pretty much,” Gilcrest said. “I definitely got a lot of help from the field.”
Gilcrest didn’t allow a base runner until Logan Mullinex tripled in the fifth. The next batter, Ricky Ramey, lined a single to left. Mullinex held up some before taking off and left fielder Ethan Brooks threw him out at home.
“We didn’t the read the ball off the bat very well, but that happens,” Whiteland coach Scott Sherry said. “The kid (Brooks) made a great play, so take nothing away from them.”
Those were the only two hits Gilcrest allowed.
“When he relaxes and throws the ball, he’s got good enough stuff to get through any game,” Trojans coach Keith Hatfield said. “But sometimes he starts thinking too much and lets his brain get in the way of his arm.
“He had command of the strike zone really well. He only threw 71 pitches, so it was a very efficient game.”
Thixton had two of Center Grove’s five hits.
“We let off the gas a little bit towards the end, but it was a long day,” Hatfield said.
The semifinals started three hours late because of wet field conditions. The Trojans beat Indian Creek 5-1 in the semifinals. Senior Conner Cantrell got the victory.
“The pitchers did a great job (Saturday),” Hatfield said. “Hitters scored what we had to, so it was a good day. We usually get off to a really good start or have a really good finish. We don’t score a lot in the middle innings.”
The two teams both got byes and will meet again in the Center Grove Sectional semifinals on Memorial Day.
“We played two games against Center Grove and both games have been competitive,” said Sherry, whose team’s record dropped to 7-18. “We just have to find a way to score some runs.”
Whiteland advanced by nipping Greenwood 2-1 on Christian Curry’s RBI in eight innings. Senior Caleb Deiter allowed just one hit in getting the semifinal win for Warriors.