There is comfort in possessing one of the best pitching staffs in the state.

Keith Hatfield, the third-year baseball coach at regional-bound Center Grove, doesn’t take it for granted.

“That’s the nicest thing, going into every game knowing you’re going to be in the game for seven innings,” said Hatfield, whose squad takes a 23-3 record into Saturday’s Evansville Reitz Regional at historic Bosse Field.

“No matter who we put out there, he’s going to compete, and he’s going to get outs.”

Senior lefthander Jacob Cantleberry for a second consecutive season is the team’s No. 1 pitcher. The Daily Journal’s reigning Player of the Year has pitched the most innings (52 2/3) and struck out the most batters (98) for the Trojans.

Cantleberry’s earned run average is a ridiculously low 0.80.

Yet the senior can’t claim the pitching staff’s best won-loss mark — at least not by himself.

Junior right-hander Jack Kellams and Cantleberry both take 7-0 records to Evansville this weekend. Kellams owns a 1.95 ERA having fanned 35 hitters in 43 innings of work.

Add senior righty Conner Cantrell (5-1, 0.85), sophomore lefty Jacob Gilcrest (3-0, 1.83) and junior reliever Max Heath (four saves), and it’s a nucleus largely responsible for the pitching staff’s overall ERA of 1.34.

Center Grove’s 1-2-3 punch of Cantleberry, Kellams and Cantrell have experienced enough big-game environments to maintain a collective calm regardless how long the Trojans’ postseason lasts.

“I think the pressure kind of makes us perform better. All three of us are really good friends, and we push each other whether it’s lifting weights or something else,” Cantleberry said.

Center Grove required eight innings to defeat county rival Greenwood, 5-2, in Monday night’s title game of its own Class 4A sectional.

Cantleberry got the start against the Woodmen and pitched five innings before Cantrell came on in relief. Cantrell picked up the win as the Trojans tallied three runs in the top of the eighth inning to qualify for regional.

The Trojans bat .299 as a team and score at a clip of 5.5 runs per game. They’ve struck out more than they’ve walked (135 to 103) and belted a total of 55 extra-base hits.

“We lost a lot of runs from last year’s team, but not a lot on the mound,” Hatfield said. “Both Jack and Conner have had great years and Jacob has repeated what he did last season.

“A 23-3 record is really hard to predict, but I did know we weren’t going to give up a lot of runs.”

Center Grove hasn’t. Forty-four in 26 games.

“Our hitting is coming along really well, but we did lose a lot of firepower from last season,” Kellams said. “It’s just having confidence in each other and having a good defense behind you.”

If You Go


Class 4A Evansville Reitz Regional

When: Saturday

Where: Bosse Field


New Albany vs. Evansville Harrison, 11 a.m.

Bloomington South vs. Center Grove, 1 p.m.

Championship game

Winners play, 8 p.m.

Class 3A Crawfordsville Regional

When: Saturday

Where: Crawfordsville High School


Brebeuf Jesuit vs. Northview, 11 a.m.

Indian Creek vs. Frankfort, 1 p.m.


Winners play, 8 p.m.

Class A Morristown Regional

When: Saturday

Where: Morristown High School


Jac-Cen-Del vs. Greenwood Christian Academy, 11 a.m.

Clay City vs. Indianapolis Lutheran, 1 p.m.


Winners play, 8 p.m.

Author photo
Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at