On the day following the school’s first sectional title in baseball, Greenwood Christian Academy coach Doug Hagist recalled for a visitor what things were like when the program began three seasons ago.
Sometimes life on the Greenwood Christian diamond wasn’t pretty in those days, but the learning curve has been short.
“As you’re trying to build, it’s understood that you’re going to take some beat-downs,” Hagist recalled. “What we did is take those games and show the kids ‘That’s where we need to be.’ We used what the teams did against and said ‘We’ll get there. Don’t lose heart.’ I kept telling those kids, ‘Maybe next year, maybe five or seven years, even though you’re getting your teeth kicked in, you’ll take pride in having helped start this program.’
“Some of them were there with us last night (after the sectional win). We invited them on the field and told them ‘You’re part of this too.’”
Greenwood Christian didn’t spare any drama in winning the sectional. Winning pitcher Braden Murray hit a two-out, two-strike home run in the top of the seventh inning to tie the game with University and eventually force extra innings. The Cougars then scored seven runs in the top of the ninth for a 14-7 win.
Murray pitched seven innings of one-run relief, including 12 strikeouts, to earn the victory.
Now 16-13, the Cougars face Class No. 3 Shakamak (23-6) in today’s semifinals of the Morristown Regional.
Murray said even with school out there has been a lot of enthusiasm among the Greenwood Christian community about the school’s first sectional title.
“We had a big crowd at the game last night (in Brownsburg), and I got a whole lot of texts from people who weren’t at the game, saying ‘Good job,’” Murray said. “We’re expecting a lot of people to come down to Morristown.”
Senior Gunnar Rastenburg said Hagist has worked patiently with the team and also helped by encouraging some modest investment in facilities by the small private school to help the baseball team’s success.
“I think batting has been our biggest (improvement),” he said. “I used to be nervous every time I got up to bat. This year that’s gotten a lot better thanks to the coaches.”
Hagist credited his father, Duffy, the team’s pitching coach, as well as assistant coach Brad Walters with helping bring about the relatively quick success for the Cougars.
“We had a bunch of athletes before, and I think this year our athletes have developed into baseball players,” he said. “They have developed a baseball mind.”
Starting pitchers Murray, Seth Walter and Krae Sparks have been key to Greenwood Christian’s success, along with Nobie Piercy and Tad Thompson, fixtures at the top of the batting order.
Sparks hits third and Alec Brown fourth, Rastenburg bats fifth, Walters sixth and Jacob Stephensen seventh, followed by Murray and either Jacob Hagist or Nate Weems.