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Jack Greene’s return propels Coe into American Rivers Conference baseball tournament championship
Senior returned after being sidelined for 2 months and posted consecutive wins over Buena Vista; T.J. Johnson provided Coe’s offense with 5 hits, 2 home runs and 9 RBIs in finale
CEDAR RAPIDS – At one point, Jack Greene’s season was thought to be finished.
The senior left-hander suffered a swollen forearm after a start on March 19 from a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow. Knowing surgery would end his season and career, Greene opted to rest with hopes of a postseason return.
The likelihood of him pitching again was in doubt throughout the last two months. About a week or two ago, there was hope when he started to play catch. Greene pitched in the bullpen for the first time Thursday, throwing a whopping eight pitches to prove he had no pain and could throw.
“I said ’I’m good to go,’” Greene said. “I’m ready to pitch. So, I waited for that opportunity.”
In dramatic fashion, and when Coe needed him most, Greene returned to the mound. He provided an astonishing performance, earning wins in back-to-back elimination games over Buena Vista to claim the American Rivers Championship pod championship Friday at Mount Mercy’s Robert W. Plaster Athletic Complex. Coe will face the winner of Loras and Luther on Sunday for the tournament title and automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
The 14th-ranked Kohawks swept the Beavers, 4-3 and 17-2, with the final lasting seven innings. Coe also beat Dubuque 4-1 to start the day, becoming the first conference team to win three games in one day of the tournament since Wartburg in 2009.
Greene stayed ready the entire tournament, waiting for his chance. He entered the game because Coach Steve Cook wanted someone with his attitude and mentality. More who he was than what he could do.
“Some would probably think that I didn’t have my wits about me to put him in that situation,” Cook said. “I had no idea if he was going to be good but I knew he was going to leave it all on the field.”
Greene came in and recorded a strikeout for the final out, stranding the go-ahead run at third and setting up Jordan Kaplan’s RBI single to score Riley Legrand to force an “if” game. When Greene came off the mound, Coe players erupted and flooded foul territory to celebrate. Greene flexed and yelled, flowing with adrenaline.
“I missed it,” Greene said. “It’s an emotion that has been dormant for seven to eight weeks after not being able to play.
“I was anticipating being able to get our guys going and being able to get some energy and momentum going.”
Greene asked for the ball and started the final, allowing just three hits and striking out 11. He relied on his slider to limit Buena Vista to just two solo home runs.
“I threw more sliders than I had all year,” Greene said. “It was a little scary because I think the pitch I tore my arm on was a slider. Going into today, I hadn’t thrown a breaking ball. Just a fastball and changeup.”
The Kohawks (35-6) provided more than enough support in the decisive game. They gave Greene a 3-1 lead in the first on T.J. Johnson’s two-run double and T.J. Deardorff’s RBI single. Johnson, who became Coe’s single-season RBI leader, went 5-for-5 with nine RBIs, including two home runs. He also had three hits, including a home run, in the first game against the Beavers (21-23).
“I can’t say enough,” Greene said. “They did a good job answering. They came back and rallied and got three out of the gate.
“They keep fighting and it worked out well for us.”