Tyler LeMasters homered, doubled and drove in five runs, and the Trojans rode a big night from the lower half of the batting order to a 10-0 victory against county rival Greenwood in Thursday’s sectional final.
Center Grove (27-1), ranked third in the state, will travel to Bloomington North or Shelbyville for a regional game Tuesday.
“It was really nice to see the bottom of the order step up and start to hit the ball hard,” Center Grove coach Russ Milligan said. “That’s where all our scoring was done.”
The Trojans stole a run in the first inning when Piper Belden reached on an error, advanced to second on a double play, moved to third on consecutive walks and came in on a botched pickoff attempt. Greenwood (8-17) was poised to strike back in the top of the second when Dominique Proctor and Rachel Derf opened the frame with singles, but the Woodmen were unable to bring them in.
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In the home half of the second, the bottom of the Center Grove lineup went to work. Taylor Dishman drew a leadoff walk and came in on a double by Tyler LeMasters, who then scored on an infield single by Lexi Gaffney. Belden later plated Gaffney with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.
Nikki Abrams and Jessica Lupinetti started the Trojans’ third with base hits, and both came in when Tyler LeMasters crushed a three-run homer to right center, chasing Greenwood starter Olivia Rugenstein from the game.
Gaffney, Hanna Burris and Belden then greeted reliever Kaitlyn Heffner with consecutive singles to stretch the lead to eight.
Greenwood’s best chance to make a dent in the deficit came in the top of the fifth, when they loaded the bases with two out. Trojan pitcher Abby Herbst again escaped trouble, however, getting Heffner to ground out to second.
“We can compete when we’ve got that fire and that energy and play for each other, and we had some spurts where we did,” Greenwood coach Greg Norwood said. “We just were outgunned and outmatched.”
Center Grove scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the fifth to make it 9-0, and LeMasters ended it an inning later by following a Lexi Fair double with a sacrifice fly.
Herbst went the distance in the pitching circle for Center Grove, scattering six hits in the shutout win. She struck out three and walked one.
Burris had three hits for the Trojans, while LeMasters, Gaffney, Lupinetti and Abrams added two apiece.
The remaining road through the tournament is expected to be much tougher, but Center Grove isn’t lacking for confidence.
“We’ve got the players, we’ve got the chemistry and we have all the skill we need,” LeMasters said. “We just need to take it one game at a time and it’s all ours.”