A USA-365 special report by Mark Smith
|CP freshman Brinkley Kita fires away. Kita was the starting pitcher in all three Bulldog sectional games. (Photo by Mark Smith)|
|LC third baseman Alexis Johnson (15) fires to first baseman Angelique Harper (26) just ahead of CP's Caitlyn Phillips (7) in third inning action.|
|Crown Point fans, wearing red, invaded St. John Friday to watch the showdown between CP and LC.|
|LC sophomore Peyton Pepkowksi (25) gets ready against CP. Pepkowksi struck out 10 CP batters in the sectional championship game.|
|Third base coach Pete Iussig watches Mallory McMahon head for home after her fourth inning home run.|
|Mallory McMahon and catcher Zoie Rettig were all smiles once Crown Point had taken the lead on arch rival Lake Central.|
|CP coach Pete Iussig watches his girls battle Lake Central for the Class 4A Sectional 1 championship.|
|With LC's Alexis Johnson (15) on the move, CP second baseman Maggie Ballentine grabs a bases loaded ground ball to end the LC fifth inning.|
|In humid conditions in the upper 70s, water was at a premium at the LC-CP championship game Friday.|
|The CP pitching staff of sophomore Madi Young (left) freshman Brinkley Kita (middle) and sophomore Madi Elish sparked CP to 27 wins in their first 31 games.|
|LC's Morgan Hoppe hangs around second base after a leadoff seventh inning double while CP's Madi Elish gets ready to post the final three outs. Elish finished all three games for CP at the LC sectional.|
|Crown Point seniors Grace Frazier (left) and Malory McMahon smile for cameras after CP's seventh sectional softball championship. (All photos by Mark Smith)|
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|Team (Record) / Inning||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||R||H||E|
|LAKE CENTRAL (26-4, 13-1 DAC)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||0|
|CROWN POINT (27-4, 12-2 DAC)||0||0||0||1||0||1||-||2||4||2|
Friday, May 24,
2019 - 76 degrees and sunny, 5 p.m. start in ST. JOHN,
WP - Brinkley Kita: (5-1) 2 H, 0 R, 7 K, 0 BB (4 inn.)
SV - Maddie Elish: (Save #3) 1 H, 0 R, 0 K, 2 BB (3 inn.)
LP - Peyton Pepkowski: 4 H, 2 R, 10 K, 2 BB (CG)
Lake Central Indians (26-4, 13-1 in DAC)
Alexis Johnson (3B) 0-2, walk
Sydney Doloszycki (SS) 0-2, reached on error
Olivia Peterson (C) 0-2, SAC Bunt
Jenna Towle (DP) 0-3
Alexus Reese (2B) 1-3, single
Morgan Hoppe (RF) 1-2, double, SAC Bunt
Angel Harper (1B) 0-2
Mikayla Creasbaum (PH) 0-0, walk
Alexa Sherlund (LF) 0-1, reached on error
Kaitlyn O’Drobinak (PH) 0-1
Amanda Aardema (CF) 0-3
Crown Point Bulldogs (27-4, 13-1 in DAC)
Caitlyn Phillips (3B) 0-3
Madi Elish (DP/P) 2-3, single, double, run
Anna Holloway (SS) 1-3, double, RBI
Mallory McMahon (CF) 1-2, home run, walk, run, RBI
Maggie Ballentine (2B) 0-2, walk
Madi Young (PH) 0-1
Maddie Adams (PH) 0-1
Grace Frazier (1B) 0-2
Katie Neal (LF) 0-2
Zoie Rettig (C) 0-2
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ST. JOHN (05-24-2019) After Crown Point defeated Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) champion Lake Central 2-0 Friday in the 2019 Class 4A Sectional 1 championship game on a tie-breaking home run by senior outfielder Mallory McMahon, I asked Mallory what, in retrospect, was a dumb question.
Two years ago, as a sophomore, McMahon drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in CP’s 2-1 state championship game win over Avon. Now her low-riding line drive fourth-inning homer puts CP ahead to stay against Crown Point’s arch-rival in a sectional showdown on LC’s home field.
I asked Mallory if she realized how once-in-a-lifetime, bolt of lightning rare and wonderful it was for any high school softball player to even get the chance to have either of the two on-field signature moments she has had.
Like she hadn’t ever thought about it.
“Yeah,” she smiled, standing on Lake Central’s artificial turf in a 7 p.m. spring sunset. “I know. I just feel like all my hard work paid off when I need it to.”
In a scoreless tie in front of about 250 fans on a hot, humid day, both teams managed just one hit through three innings. CP’s Anna Holloway flied out to right field to start the fourth inning and up stepped McMahon, who had struck out in her first at bat. The CP fans jumped to their feet as soon as the ball was hit.
“She (LC sophomore pitcher Peyton Pepkowski) was throwing a lot of spin pitches,” Mallory said. “So I moved up in the (batter’s) box to get it before it would spin. I wasn’t sure (it was a home run) because I really didn’t hit it high. But it was high enough.”
Mallory talked about beating a Lake Central team with four Division I players after losing to the Indians four times in the last two seasons.
“The adrenaline rush is crazy,” she said. “This is one of the best feelings ever.”
It is almost as good as that (winning the 2017 state title game) because of who we beat. We don’t know those (LC) girls but we know of them. We know who they are. It’s a little personal. They’re the rival school.”
CP junior catcher Zoie Rettig said that it’s a natural fact that Crown Point vs. Lake Central is the always the game of the year if you’re from CP.
“We know what we’re looking for when we play them,” Zoie said. “We play them a lot. They are always such a good and talented team. Every year. We work hard to try to beat them.”
Crown Point (27-4), rated No. 5 in the final state poll, was far from perfect in this game. The Bulldogs committed two official errors, let a very playable foul pop up drop and had a pinch runner picked off first base.
Lake Central, which had lost only to Chicago Catholic superpower Marist (32-2), Class 4A No. 4 Pendleton Heights (23-4) and Class 4A No. 10 Chesterton (21-6-1), put base runners at second and third against relief pitcher Madi Elish in the fifth inning with two walks (one intentional) wrapped around a throwing error. With the score just 1-0, Elish got LC’s ninth place hitter Amanda Ardema (21 of 60, .350) to hit a ground ball back to the pitcher for the second out. CP intentionally walked LC leadoff batter Alexis Johnson (39 of 85, .458) to fill the bases. Elish then got Sydney Doloszycki (35 of 85, .411) to hit a ground ball to second baseman Maggie Ballentine to end the inning.
All four CP base hits off Lake Central starter Peyton Pepkowski (9-2) came from the 2-3-4 spots in the batting order, sophomores Madi Elish, and Anna Holloway and cleanup hitter Mallory McMahon (28 of 65, .430), who was walked intentionally for the second playoff game in a row.
“I don’t want to say I scare anybody,” Mallory said of the free passes. “But it does make me feel good.”
When the seven team sectional bracket came out, LC, which had, at one time, a 21-game winning streak this season, got a bye. CP got the hard road with the prospect of Munster (25-7) in the semifinals and LC (26-4) in the finals. Lake Central, which has won at least 20 softball games for a state record 31 years in a row, defeated CP 4-2 to win the 2018 Sectional 1 championship game.
This was the game both teams had pointed to all season.
And none of us in the big crowd had any idea which way Friday’s showdown was going to go until McMahon faced a 1-1 fourth inning pitch and ‘lightning’ struck again.
“Maybe she didn’t realize it two years ago,” said Iussig of whether his senior cleanup hitter totally understands how great her big moments have been. “But I bet she realizes it now. As somebody that’s already been there and already done that.”
SECTIONAL NOTES: Crown Point will play at Chesterton (21-6-1) Tuesday night, May 28 at 7 p.m. Chesterton lost the 2017 regional championship game 7-0 at home to CP. The Trojans lost the 4A regional title game 3-2 at Lake Central in 2018.
The regional winner at Chesterton could see the host Raiders (19-6) at the Harrison Semistate on June 1. Chesterton won all three of their Sectional 2 playoff games by 10 runs or more.
Lake Central right-hander Peyton Pepkowski (9-2) struck out ten in six innings and she finished her sophomore season with 129 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings.
LC (26-4) was 13-1 in the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) this season, winning the league championship over Crown Point (27-4, 12-2 DAC). The difference was LC victories over CP 6-2 and 1-0.
Of the 10 players in the starting lineup for last Friday’s sectional championship game at Lake Central, five (Zoie Rettig, Grace Frazier, Maggie Ballentine, Caitlyn Phillips and Mallory McMahon) were also in the starting lineup for CP’s 2-1 win over Avon in the Class 4A state championship game on June 10, 2017.
In the 4-0 sectional quarterfinal win over Kankakee Valley and the 3-1 semifinal win over Munster, CP coach Pete Iussig had used all three of his pitchers. Freshman Brinkley Kita pitched the first two innings. Madi Young (9-1, 1.71 ERA) pitched the next two and Madi Elish (13-2, 1.55 ERA) pitched the final three.
Against LC, Iussig used freshman Kita for the first four innings and sophomore Elish for the final three innings. Iussig said after the game, that was not the championship game plan.
“If Brinkley had gotten into trouble,” Iussig said, “Madi Young was coming in. Elish was going to pitch the last three innings. She wasn’t coming in before that. Young would have relieved Brinkley.”
One Crown Point softball question that I can't answer is why, after decades of being fair to middling, why has CP grown into a state softball power and where are all these star pitchers coming from?
No matter what happens the rest of the 2019 playoffs, CP has three tall dominant pitchers for the next two years at least. Sophomore Madi Elish has agreed to accept a scholarship from the University of Arizona and class mate Madi Young has accepted the promise of a scholarship from Bowling Green. Three years ago, CP had Division I pitchers Miranda Elish (Texas) and Alexis Holloway (Notre Dame) on the same team.
“It’s a little crazy. I know a lot of people want to come here any way they can,” said senior Mallory McMahon, who has seen five (freshman Brinkley Kita is unsigned but an obvious major college prospect) Division I players in her time at Crown Point. “We get lucky that we have the girls that we do.”
Catcher Zoie Rettig would have the best perspective.
“They (Elish, Young and Kita) are awesome,” she said. “I work with them every day. Brinkley is going to go somewhere big. She’s so talented. She throws a rise and a drop. A screw (screwball) a changeup and a fastball.”
“Our pitchers here keep coming. They’re being taught by the best. I’m lucky to get to work with them.”
CP pitching has allowed a total of 50 runs in 31 games.
USA-365.com Broadcast Note: We plan to follow the Crown Point Bulldogs girls softball team throughout the IHSAA tournament, as long as they remain alive in the post-season. (See schedule and season results below.) Crown Point's next game is Tuesday, May 28 at Chesterton High School. Our Internet radio coverage on USA-365.com begins with the pregame show at 6:45 p.m., and the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m., CDT.
2019 (4A) Crown Point (26-4)
25-6 (2018), 30-2 (2017) 28-2 (2016), 29-3 (2015) 29-1 (2014)
All DAC games in CAPS
3-27 (W) 10-0 PORTAGE (7-19)
4-2 (W) 6-4 at CHESTERTON (21-6-1)
4-3 (L) 2-6 at 4A No. 1 LAKE CENTRAL (26-4)
4-4 (L) 0-3 Munster (25-7)
4-8 (L) 2-6 (Chicago) Marist (32-2)
4-9 (W) 20-0 (5 inn.) MICHIGAN CITY
4-10 (W) 15-3 (5 inn.) LaPORTE
4-13 (W) 10-6 at Harrison (19-6)
4-13 (W) 4-2 at Harrison (19-6)
4-16 (W) 12-0 (5 inn.) at VALPARAISO (12-10)
4-17 (W) 12-0 (5 inn.) MERRILLVILLE
Lakeshore (Michigan) Invitational
4-20 (W) 7-2 Edwardsburg, Mich. (28-8)
4-20 (W) 9-1 (Stevensville, Mich.) Lakeshore (26-10)
4-20 (W) 11-1 (6 inn.) Caledonia, Mich (12-10)
4-23 (W) 13-2 (5 inn.) at PORTAGE (7-19)
4-24 (W) 3-2 CHESTERTON (21-6-1)
4-25 (W) 7-3 at Penn (21-6)
4-30 (Rain) 4A No. 1 LAKE CENTRAL (26-4)
5-1 (Rain) at MICHIGAN CITY
5-4 (W) 6-0 Boone Grove (20-6)
5-4 (W) 8-1 Boone Grove (20-6)
5-6 (L) 0-1 Lake Central (26-4)
5-7 (W) 13-0 (5 inn.) at LaPorte (16-11)
5-8 (W) 11-0 VALPARAISO (12-10)
5-9 (W) 13-0 LaPORTE (16-11)
5-11 (W) 3-2 Carmel (13-9)
5-11 (W) 5-2 (3A) No. 1 New Palestine (27-3)
5-13 (W) 10-0 (5 inn.) Highland
5-14 (W) 11-0 (5 inn.) at MERRILLVILLE
5-15 (W) 9-2 Lowell (16-10)
4A Sectional 1 (at LC)
5-21 (W) 4-0 Kankakee Valley (14-14)
5-22 (W) 3-1 Munster (25-7)
5-23 (W) 2-0 Lake Central (26-4)
5-28 (Tues) at Chesterton (21-6-1) 7 p.m.
4A Semistate at Harrison (West Lafayette)
6-1 (Sat) vs. Harrison (19-6) or Fishers (16-9)
State Finals at Bittinger Stadium, Purdue University, West Lafayette
6-8 (Sat) South Semi-State winner vs. North Semi-State winner 6:30 p.m. CDT (7:30 p.m. EDT)