A fresh look: Eblin making early impact for Trojans

Like most freshmen, Bryce Eblin wasn’t certain what role he would play this season for the Center Grove baseball program.

Maybe he sticks with his classmates and plays shortstop for the Trojans’ freshman squad, or gains valuable experience as a regular on the junior varsity.

Eblin leapfrogged both opportunities.

Eblin, a starter in Center Grove’s midfield since the team’s 3-2 loss to Cathedral to open the season on April 1, is the lone ninth-grader on coach Keith Hatfield’s 20-man varsity roster.

Batting .358 from the second spot in the order, Eblin appears to be getting an early jump on what could be an outstanding career by the time Center Grove’s 2020 season concludes.

“(In the preseason) I went out there and tried my best. I just have a passion for baseball,” said Eblin, who at this time last year was a 14-year-old playing travel baseball for the Indiana Bulls.

“My first team was the Oakland A’s in the Center Grove Little League. I was 5 years old playing on the 6-year-old team. I’ve pretty much played anywhere except first base and catcher.”

Hatfield is conscious of the baseball talent at all levels throughout the school system and at what rate those individuals are progressing both physically and in terms of skill level.

With only four seniors, he made the decision to get Eblin indoctrinated early.

“Obviously, we are not deep in the senior class, and we’re not deep as far as numbers go in the sophomore class,” Hatfield said. “It was almost a perfect storm with depth in the infield.

“We knew Bryce was talented, but usually if we have a junior or senior there, we’ll give that player the opportunity. But it was very evident early he belonged out there, and he has more than held his own.”

Eblin’s batting average ranks among the leaders on the team entering the Trojans’ first-round game of the Franklin Sectional on Wednesday. He’s also among the team leaders in runs (21), doubles (6) and walks (12).

He began the season in the bottom third of Center Grove’s batting order, but quickly ascended to his current role.

“Don’t get me wrong, Bryce is really good in the field,” Hatfield said. “But hitting-wise, he’s not trying to do too much. Bryce is taking what pitchers are giving him.”

Eblin’s desire to excel in baseball can be traced to genetics. His father, Jim, played baseball in high school, and Jenny Eblin, his mother, was a varsity softball player who actually started the family tradition of playing shortstop.

“I love challenges,” Bryce Eblin said. “Honestly, it’s probably just inherited from both of my parents.”

If you go

Class 4A Franklin Sectional

Wednesday

Center Grove vs. Whiteland, 5:30 p.m.

Franklin vs. Franklin Central, 7:30 p.m.

May 29

Wednesday’s winners, 11 a.m.

Martinsville vs. Greenwood, 2 p.m.

Championship, 6 p.m.

Class 3A Danville Sectional

Wednesday

Indian Creek vs. Greencastle, 5:30 p.m.

Indianapolis Washington vs. Danville, 7:30 p.m.

May 29

Wednesday’s winners, 10 a.m.

Indianapolis Northwest vs. Beech Grove, noon

Championship, 7 p.m.

Class A Morristown Sectional

Wednesday

Wednesday’s winners, 10 a.m.

Arlington vs. Greenwood Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday

Wednesday’s winners, 10 a.m.

Morristown vs. Edinburgh, noon

Monday

Championship, 10 a.m.

Sectional scouting report

Class 4A Franklin Sectional

Favorite: Center Grove

Dark horse: Franklin

Players to watch: Center Grove — Nick Coy, Jacob Gilcrest, Ryan Sauter, Michael Wyman; Franklin — Michael Couet, Luke Miles, Jacob Heuchan, Alec MacLennan; Greenwood — Jarrett Caster, Damon Maynard, Dylan Rosado; Franklin Central — Jarod Gillespie; Chris Ford, Jeremy Knott, Devlin Porter; Martinsville — Brandon Dodson, Seth Galyan, Brett Lavender, Dalton Moscrip; Whiteland —Jacob Leistner, Lance Mullinix, Tyler Robinson, Bailey Watson.

Outlook: Not as dominant as last year’s senior-fueled semistate qualifier, Center Grove still is regarded as the slight favorite. The Trojans posted a 6-2 record against teams in their sectional during the regular season. Whiteland, as the reigning Johnson County champion, cannot be overlooked. The sectional includes four Mid-State Conference programs, including Franklin, which benefits by playing on its home diamond.

Class 3A Danville Sectional

Favorite: Indian Creek

Dark horse: Danville

Players to watch: Beech Grove — Kole Aping, Tyler Griffith, Jordan Reel, Zach Ringham; Danville — Reece Jensen, Ethan Shafer, Logan Smith;Jackson Wynn; Greencastle — Alex Costin, Nick Costin, Jacob Harris, Jackie Scanland; Indian Creek — Trevor Ankney, Jared DeHart, Dawson Read, Max Walls.

Outlook: Unfamiliarity is the key word here as Indian Creek didn’t play any of the other sectional teams during the regular season. Meanwhile, the host Warriors only faced Beech Grove and scored a convincing 13-1 decision. These programs are the favorites, and are expected to square off in a semifinal. The Warriors won sectional last year for the first time in 43 years.

Class A Morristown Sectional

Favorite: Greenwood Christian Academy

Dark horse: Edinburgh

Players to watch: Edinburgh — Kyle Armel, Ryan Gaston, Coltan Henderson, Zach Murphy; Greenwood Christian — Ethan Chupp, Colton Crick, Joey Jessup, Elliott Murray; Morristown — Garrett Coffey, Chance Collingwood, Nathaniel Reuter.

Outlook: Greenwood Christian seeks what would be the program’s fourth consecutive sectional title. There’s a strong likelihood the two Johnson County programs, GCA and Edinburgh, will meet in the championship game. The Lancers, who captured three straight sectionals from 2009-11, hope to benefit from drawing the bye.

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