Franklin’s baseball team picked up right where it left off in the championship game of the Johnson County Tournament on Saturday afternoon.
After the Grizzly Cubs pulled out a closely-contested decision against Whiteland in the morning semifinals, they rode that momentum to a quick start in their 5-3 championship victory against Greenwood.
The scoreboard numbers certainly were deceiving.
Franklin’s totals of four hits and four errors usually wouldn’t bode well for a team in a baseball game, but the Cubs (14-10) made the most of their opportunities on offense while keeping the resurgent Woodmen in the field.
Timing was definitely everything with key hits and outs made.
The Cubs also had sophomore Andrew Hartkorn on his game, both on the pitcher’s mound and in the batter’s box.
On the hill, Hartkorn struck out nine batters and allowed just one earned run in the 61/3 innings to improve to 3-1. At the plate, the sophomore delivered run-scoring singles in his first two times at bat to help boost his team to its fast start.
“I was just focusing on hitting my corners and hitting my spots,” Hartkorn said. “We faced a solid Greenwood team today, and if you leave the ball down the middle of the plate, they’re going to hit it.
“My curve ball was working today. It kept them off balance.”
Cubs’ coach Ryan Feyerabend put it another way.
“Andrew was lights-out, and our bats were pretty opportunistic,” Feyerabend said.
Junior right fielder Evan Giles also doubled in teammate David Stier and scored on Hartkorn’s single in the second inning.
Franklin added a pair of runs in the sixth inning when first baseman Dylan Drybread drove in Ryan Torrance with a single. Senior Dylan Christie scored the Cubs’ fifth and last run on a wild pitch.
Greenwood gave it everything it had, out-hitting Franklin 7 to 4, but the seven walks issued by Woodmen pitching proved to be expensive.
“That’s just what we talked about,” said Greenwood coach Andy Bass of those costly bases on balls after the game.
It was most telling in the second inning after Greenwood starting pitcher Mitch Caster retired the first two batters he faced. A walk to David Stier, a double by Giles and a single by Hartkorn put the Cubs up 3-0.
The loss was especially bitter medicine for the Woodmen, considering how impressively they eliminated No. 1 seed and tournament host Center Grove 8-6 in the other morning semifinal.
That gave Greenwood the chance to avenge their county title game loss to Franklin a year ago. Instead, the Woodmen fell to the Cubs by two runs or less for the third time this spring.
The Woodmen finally got on the scoreboard in the fourth inning when Reid Werner scored on an error. Werner drove in Caster from second base with a single in the sixth inning and senior Marty Underwood hit a long home run over the left field fence in the seventh.
Franklin advanced to the title game, scoring a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to edge Whiteland 2-1 in the semifinals round. Senior Ross Barr singled in Hartkorn from second base for the go-ahead score.
The Cubs tied the contest in the fifth when junior Ryan Torrance brought in Giles with a base hit. Franklin improved to 13-10, while the Warriors dropped to 9-16.
Led by senior Jake Still’s three runs batted in, Greenwood knocked off top-seeded Center Grove 8-6 to improve to 6-13. Caster belted a home run and drove in a pair of runs for the Woodmen, who had 12 hits 11 for the Trojans, who fell to 17-9.
Junior pitcher Sam Orem allowed just three earned runs in five-plus innings and earned the win to improve to 3-2. Caster was credited with the save.