Whiteland’s baseball team got the better of Center Grove’s when the two clashed earlier this month in the Johnson County tournament championship.
Junior pitcher Jacob Johnson helped the Trojans earn a bit of payback on the Warriors’ home field Monday.
Johnson struck out nine over five-plus innings and worked his way out of a couple of trouble spots, and Michael Wyman and Braden Parks each drove home a pair of runs as Center Grove posted a 5-2 victory.
“Obviously, coming out after county, we definitely wanted this,” Center Grove coach Keith Hatfield said. “Also, being on a Monday, we have four games this week, so it’s definitely a good start.”
Story continues below gallery
Whiteland (10-4) loaded the bases in the bottom of the first but couldn’t push a run across. Johnson then cut through the Warriors’ lineup in order in the second, and his Trojan teammates gave him all the runs he needed in the third.
Nick Coy reached on a one-out walk and moved to second when Bryce Eblin reached on a fielder’s choice. Then, with two out, Wyman drove in one run with a base hit, taking second on the throw to the plate. Parks followed with another single up the middle, scoring Eblin and Wyman to make it a 3-0 game.
The Warriors had the makings of a threat in their half of the third inning, as Chase Bennett led off with a double and came home on a Rickey Ramey triple, but Johnson struck out the next three hitters to limit the damage and maintain a two-run cushion.
“The first inning I was struggling a little bit,” Johnson said, noting that his curveball served him well all day and his fastball eventually came around. “But as soon as I got settled in, my teammates had my back and I was feeling more comfortable as the game went on.”
Center Grove (5-7) struck again in the fifth inning when Eblin led off with a double and scored on a one-out single by Wyman. That hit knocked Whiteland starter Iyan Pelfree out of the game, but reliever Austin Corn was able to quickly escape when left fielder Bailey Watson made a running grab of a Parks fly ball and turned to double Wyman off of second.
In the sixth, the Trojans stretched their lead to 5-1 on an RBI base hit by Coy. Whiteland finally chased Johnson in the bottom of the inning by again putting the first two men on base, but reliever Jonathan Baumet was able to escape unscathed.
The Warriors’ seventh-inning comeback bid produced one run when Bennett walked, took second on a fielder’s choice, stole third and came home on an errant throw. But despite putting the first two batters on for the fourth time in the game, that was all the home club could muster.
For the young Trojans, the victory serves as a big momentum boost heading into a busy week.
“This just gets us going more,” Johnson said. “We’ve won three straight now, so we’re feeling good. We’re just trying to get the wins the rest of the week.”