ELWOOD — It was almost midnight Tuesday morning when Andy Garcia officially was able to celebrate the high point of his first season as Elwood's baseball coach.
The Panthers (19-12) outlasted endless lightning delays, a venue change because of heavy rain and finally the Sheridan Falcons for a 13-3 victory that gave the program its first sectional crown since 2009.
"It was special to the players," Garcia said some 16 hours after the final out. "And it was special to me. This is my first year coaching, and this is a big deal to me."
The game originally was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at Sheridan. Heavy rains made the diamond unplayable and prompted a venue change to Westfield, where lightning strikes continued to delay the start.
The contest finally got under way around 9:20 p.m., and Elwood quickly got back into its groove.
The Panthers scored one run in the first, two in the second and six in the third to take a 9-2 lead and essentially put the contest out of reach. It was Elwood's fourth win in its last five games and continued a strong offensive trend.
The Panthers have scored at least eight runs in their last four victories, and they scored a combined 33 runs in the last two.
Garcia has a simple explanation for the team's recent run of success.
"Hard work," he said. "And practicing hard."
A solid core of senior leadership also doesn't hurt. Jared Bourff, London Leavell, Dakin Updegraff and Forrest Wright have set the tone for a team that still seems to be discovering its full capabilities.
Elwood finished 7-1 to win the Central Indiana Conference, accomplishing the seniors' primary goal for the season. But the Panthers haven't stopped there.
"That was their main goal; what they wanted to do was win the conference, and they did," Garcia said. "But after we accomplished that goal, we were hungry for more, and they're still trying to get more."