Identifying the role Conner Cantrell plays on Center Grove’s pitching staff isn’t easy because he plays so many.
A 6-foot-4, 195-pound senior right-hander, Cantrell has started games this season and been used in middle- and late-innings relief by third-year coach Keith Hatfield.
Whenever and wherever he pitches, Cantrell has been up to the task with a 5-1 record and 0.85 earned-run average. He’s used his curveball and fastball, and sometimes change-up, arsenal to strike out 32 batters and walk only five in 33 innings of work.
“Conner has started more than he’s been used in relief. He’s started nonconference games, he’s started a conference game this season (a win at Pike), and he’s relieved before,” said Hatfield, whose squad is 23-3 entering Saturday’s Class 4A Evansville Reitz Regional.
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“Conner’s control has been great. Monday his breaking ball was really good.”
Cantrell, who has yet to yield an extra-base hit this season — all 26 have been singles — came on in relief of starter Jacob Cantleberry against Greenwood in Monday evening’s title game of the Center Grove Sectional.
He picked up the win as Center Grove prevailed 5-2 in eight innings.
Baseball was always Cantrell’s first love while growing up, though he did attempt playing basketball and football.
“I played basketball up until fifth-grade, but I wasn’t any good at that,” Cantrell said with a laugh. “And I played football my seventh- and eighth-grade years. Baseball is definitely the sport I was best at.
“I’ve pitched forever, but I’ve also caught and played in the outfield. My freshman season I didn’t pitch at all.”
Cantrell nonetheless played a major role in Center Grove’s success in 2015, posting a 4-1 record with a 1.69 ERA. The Trojans (24-6) advanced to the Evansville Reitz Regional before dropping a 4-3 decision to the host school in a semifinal.
Center Grove now returns to 101-year-old Bosse Field to face Bloomington South in a 1 p.m. regional semifinal.
Maybe Cantrell, who next season will be pitching for coach Rich Benjamin’s program at Indiana Wesleyan University, starts a game at some point Saturday.
Maybe he relieves.
There’s always the chance he does both. Circumstances and, ultimately, Hatfield will decide how the senior’s talents are best utilized.
Center Grove seeks the baseball program’s sixth regional title overall and first since 1996.
THE CANTRELL FILE
Name: Conner Cantrell
Born: Elgin, Illinois
Family: Parents, Eric and Jillisa; brother, Colton, 19; sisters, Olivia, 15, and Elayna, 14
Favorite TV show: “The Office”
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite movie: “The Lord of the Rings”
Favorite athlete: Brandon Phillips
Favorite team: Cincinnati Reds