Don’t be deceived by the fact that Greenwood Christian Academy didn’t field its first baseball team until the 2012 season.
Three consecutive Class A sectional championships have a way of making a program appear older.
Doug Hagist, the only baseball coach Greenwooc Christian has ever had, isn’t lowering expectations this spring even though six of his nine starters — and three of his top four pitchers — are sophomores.
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The senior nucleus for the Cougars, who take a record of 9-6 into this afternoon’s game at Trinity Lutheran, is comprised of No. 1 pitcher Nolan Check, second baseman Ethan Chupp and right fielder Camden Peters.
Sometimes susceptible to the mistakes young teams have been known to make, this Greenwood Christian squad is more concerned about playing its best baseball when it most counts.
“We don’t focus on our season record as much as every game for us is getting ready to do something in the postseason,” Hagist said. “I have the expectation for them to go out there and win a sectional.
“Nolan on the mound gives us a chance to win any game.”
Check, a right-hander, mixes an 82 mph fastball with his trademark curve and has a 2-2 record to go along with a 2.86 ERA. In 22 innings of work, Check has struck out 35 batters.
Sophomores Colton Crick, Griffin Huizinga and Elliott Murray have proven to be capable starters for the Cougars. Offensively, Greenwood Christian sports a .319 team batting average while producing just more than five runs per outing.
Center fielder Payton Modlin (.444) is the No. 2 hitter in the order behind Crick (.442). Then, in order, it’s Chupp (.353), cleanup hitter Check (.500), catcher Joey Jessup (.296), Huizinga, Peters, left fielder George Apgar and first baseman Murray (.364).
Adding depth are third baseman/outfielder Cooper Britt and outfielder Danny Wilson, both sophomores.
As a team, the Cougars have stolen 32 bases. Crick leads the way with 10, with Modlin next with five.
“Everyone wants to win, and we all have the heart and drive,” said Check, who over the course of his varsity baseball career has played every position with the exception of second base.
“I would definitely say the younger players look up to us. It’s a big class to pass the torch to, but it’s a great group.”
And hardly the first at Greenwood Christian.
The initial Cougars squad, a mishmash of soccer kids, basketball players and anyone else Hagist could convince to try out, finished with a losing record. Two years later, the program had grown to the point where it won the 2014 sectional title at Bethesda Christian.
Greenwood Christian rode that momentum to a second straight championship at Bethesda and picked up the 2016 sectional crown at Morristown.
The Cougars can become only the fourth Johnson County baseball program to win four consecutive sectionals. Whiteland was the first (1967-70), followed by Greenwood (1975-78) and, most recently, Center Grove (1990-93).
“We knew starting from scratch the whole idea was we were going to be about four or five years removed from having baseball-minded players,” Hagist said. “What I had to do was convince athletes to just come out, give me eight weeks, we’ll have some fun and take a break from whatever they were doing.
“We were trying to build baseball players out of just athletes. By that second year, we were competitive in the sectional.”
Here is the remainder of the Cougars’ regular-season schedule:
Today: at Trinity Lutheran, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: Seton Catholic, noon
Monday: at Anderson Prep Academy, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday: Waldron, 5 p.m.
May 19: Muncie Burris, 5:30 p.m.
May 20: Eminence, 10 a.m.