A USA-365 special report by Mark Smith
|Crown Point senior Alexis Holloway goes back to work with a 3-0 lead in the second inning of last Saturday's Sectional championship game at LC. (All photos by Mark Smith)|
|CP third baseman Natalie Klingberg gets set for a ground ball in the third inning. The Bulldogs were errorless in the field in the title game on the artificial turf at Lake Central.|
|Crown Point senior catcher Lexi Madrigal looks on from the CP dugout. The Bulldogs, who lost in sectional play to Munster in 2016, defeated Munster 5-0 to reach last Saturday's championship game.|
|Lake Central junior Jessica Kiefor (20) throws out CP's Lydia Byrd in the sixth inning of the sectional championship game.|
|CP sophomore Grace Frazier dives back into first base ahead of the tag by LC first baseman Alex Hickey (26) in the seventh inning of Saturday's game. CP didn't score after the second inning.|
|CP sophomore Caitlyn Phillips leads off third base as LC's Maddie Blythe (23) steps up on defense. All three Crown Point runs scored in Saturday's game were unearned.|
|LC's Maddie Blythe gets set to throw out a CP hitter in Saturday's championship game. Blythe was one of just three seniors on the Lake Central (23-8) roster.|
|Was CP's Alexis Holloway tagged out by LC catcher Olivia Peterson on this play at home plate in the third inning? The umpire said she was. This play prevented CP from taking a 4-0 lead in the third inning.|
|CP first baseman Grace Frazier retires an LC batter in the fourth inning Saturday. Crown Point defeated LC three times in three games this season.|
|CP seniors Natalie Klingberg, Alexis Holloway, Lexi Madrigal, Stephanie Renner and Alexis Holloway are in the front row as CP celebrates the sectional championship.|
|CP sophomore Mallory McMahon and junior Brittany Johnstone get their hands on CP's third sectional softball championship trophy in the last four seasons.|
|Crown Point with coaches Pete Iussig (left, rear) and Jim Chancellor pose with the sectional championship trophy. Crown Point advanced to play ninth ranked Chesterton for the regional championship Tuesday night, May 30. (All photos by Mark Smith)|
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|Team (Record) / Inning||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||R||H||E|
|CROWN POINT (26-2)||2||1||0||0||0||0||0||3||5||0|
|LAKE CENTRAL (23-8)||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||3||2|
Saturday, May 27, 2017 -
Sunny, 71-degrees at 4A Sectional 1 Title game in ST. JOHN,
WP - Alexis Holloway (17-1) CG, 11 Ks, 1 walk, one WP
LP (starting pitcher) - Selena Michko (5-2) 0 hits, 2 walks 0 earned runs (2 innings)
Alex Pinarski (LC) 1K, 3 walks, no runs (5 innings)
CROWN POINT (26-2)
MacKenzie Dunlap (SS) 1-for-2, walk, Sac Fly, RBI
Grace Frazier (1B) 0-for-4
Alexis Holloway (P) 1-for-4
Maggie Balentine (LF) 0-for-2, stolen base
Mallory McMahon (CF) 0-for-2, walk
Caitlyn Phillips (LF) 0-for-3
Zoie Rettig (DH) 0-for-1, 2 walks
Lydia Byrd (RF) 1-for-3
Lexi Madrigal (C) 0-for-3
LAKE CENTRAL (23-8)
Jessica Kiefer (2B) 0-for-3
Crystal Guzman (SS) 1-for-3
Alex Hickey (1B) 1-for-2, walk
Jenna Towle (DP) 0-for-3
Maddie Blythe (3B) 0-for-3
Selena Michko (P) 0-for-1
Rylie Platusic (RF) 0-for-3
Olivia Peterson (C) 0-for-2
Amanda Noblett (LF) 0-for-2
ST. JOHN (5-27-2017) It's hard enough when you're supposed to win most of the time. But these days, Crown Point softball is supposed to win all the time. Teenage ballplayers just aren't used to that.
You can't use any of the wonderfully defiant motivational mind games that a million other teams use.
For example: You cant say, 'Nobody believed in us but us!' 'Everybody disrespected us.' 'Nobody gave us a chance!' 'We proved everybody wrong!'
Not the case for Crown Point softball. Everybody believed in them. They didn't prove anybody wrong. They've lost eight games in four years. Everyone knew they were good and thought they'd win. Let's not feel too sorry for the CP girls, but to always be the favorite is not always a comfortable position to be in.
That's why CP's third sectional softball championship in four years is something they should be very proud of. It was more than defeating defending sectional champ Munster 5-0 in the semifinals and then topping arch-rival and Class 4A No. 8 Lake Central 3-1 in the sunny Saturday final game of the Class 4A LC Sectional. It was fighting off every challenge. Defeating most of the underdogs and being the 'big dog' when you are supposed to win every single day.
"It is different," said CP rookie coach Pete Iussig, who coached Lowell for 28 years. "At Lowell we just wanted to win and everything we did out of the ordinary was just icing on the cake. This year we were supposed to win. Here (CP), everybody's big on the (Duneland Athletic) Conference. The administration is big on winning the conference. But they put no pressure on me about the post-season. None at all."
Sophomore center fielder Mallory McMahon said she feels the weight of being on a such a highly-ranked (Class 4A No. 3) team.
"Its nerve-wracking," she admits. 'You worry about messing up. I know I do. You don't want to let people down when they expect so much. You don't want to let the seniors down. I was a little worried in the seventh inning. I think everybody (on CP) was. But we have a lot of faith in Alexis."
It was a game that was closer than it seemed. CP (26-2) led 3-0 from the second inning on and they missed a couple of chances to expand the lead.
LC got their only three hits in the seventh inning to rally in front of an enthusiastic crowd of about 250 fans squeezed in around the artificial turf field just north of Lake Central high school. The CP pitcher wasn't sure exactly what happened in the seventh inning.
"That whole game was just a blur," said Alexis Holloway. "It went by very quickly. I always seem to make it very interesting. Just classic. Some commotion in the seventh."
"I just had full faith in the defense," said catcher Lexi Madrigal. "With Alexis out there pitching, I was sure we'd get the win. We work really well as a team."
Crown Point, which has now defeated LC six times in a row over two seasons, led 3-0 early. CP had runners at first and second when Lydia Byrd slapped a soft single to left to load the bases in the second inning.
Madrigal hit a bouncing ball right back to LC junior pitcher Selena Michko who threw the ball high and beyond catcher Olivia Peterson. Two runs scored and a third came home on MacKenzie Dunlap's line drive sacrifice fly to center field. Since CP was 14-0 in DAC play and 2-0 against LC, it felt like the game was over then. But it wasn't.
Senior CP all-state pitcher Alexis Holloway (19-1) allowed no hits to LC through six innings until Crystal Guzman led off the seventh with a ground ball single to center. Alex Hickey sliced a single to right and LC had an outside chance to win.
Jenna Towle sliced a ground ball to senior CP third baseman Natalie Klingberg who turned around and flipped the ball to shortstop Dunlap, who was covering third base, for a force out. Holloway struck out Maddie Blythe, but Alexa Pinarski sliced a single to right center to score the the first and only run for LC off Holloway in three games this year.
Junior Rylie Platusic had a chance to tie the game with a single after pinch runner Alexis Johnson (who ran for Pinarski) scooted to second base on a wild pitch. But, on a 2-1 pitch, Platusic sliced a slow roller to CP first baseman Grace Frazier who tagged out Platusic in the baseline to end the game.
CP faced something that all teams face in the seventh. A couple of close ball-strike calls went to LC (23-8). The Indians top seniors Guzman and Hickey, got base hits. The tying and winning runs came to the plate in a winner-take-all game. If the Lady Bulldogs weren't nervous at that point, they were the only ones on campus who weren't.
"We didn't get a couple of calls and they (LC) got a couple of good hits on us," said Madrigal, who thought the key is to stay calm under pressure. "I think our team does a really good job of that. We have all year."
Holloway could not have known when she came into high school that, even with some highly regarded teammates, that her four years would see 112 wins, three sectional titles and so far, just eight losses.
"No, I did not," she said. "I do know that everybody in Crown Point likes winning so we don't mind it."
"It's just a great feeling," said Madrigal, who has started for three seasons. "Being so competitive against anybody. I knew who I was coming into school with. I've played with most of these girls for a long time. We have so many competitive girls on this team. Everybody's just excited to keep on winning."
BULLDOG NOTES: Crown Point was to visit Class 4A No. 9 Chesterton (25-6) in the regional championship Tuesday night (May 30) at 7 p.m.
Chesterton has won 14 in a row since a 3-0 loss to Crown Point on April 26. Chesterton lost 5-1 to Crown Point on April 13. CP could then probably face top-ranked Penn (28-1) in the 4A Harrison Semistate semifinals at 10 a.m. CDT next Saturday, June 3.
Your senior class' record is a bit deceptive because is presumes that all the seniors played as freshmen and few do. But, for the record, CP's 2017 senior class has a four-year record of 112-8, the best in school history. The 2016 senior class was 111-11. The 2015 senior class was 108-17.
The Lady Bulldogs are 162-21 in the last five years.
LC graduates just three seniors (no pitchers) but one of them is No. 3 hitter Alex Hickey, who had six home runs and another is shortstop Crystal Guzman, who batter .400 this season.
Holloway, who is 48-3 in her three years career, says that playing on the artificial turf at Lake Central is something you have to get used to.
"It's definitely different," she said. "But we practiced on the (CP) football field all week to get used to it. We made a couple of adjustments. It's a little more bouncy. The ball moves a little quicker, but you just roll with it."
Everybody in NW Indiana has faced Holloway and that will be the case in Tuesday night's regional against Chesterton.
Beyond that, CP could see teams that have never faced the Crown Point star.
Is it an advantage for a pitcher to face hitters you know and who know you, or is it better for a pitcher to face hitters who have never seen her?
"That's a tough question," she said. "I don't have a good answer. Lake Central is tough. Coach (Russ) Serrato and coach (Jeff) Sherman do a fantastic job with those girls. I play with them and against them during the summer. It's an honor to play them. But I don't know. We just want to take one game at a time."
After 131 innings, Holloway had 224 strikeouts and 11 walks. The 5-foot-8 right-hander has allowed just six earned runs all season. Hours after CP's win Saturday, 2016 CP grad Miranda Elish was the winning pitcher in relief as Oregon (52-6) defeated Kentucky (39-19) by a score of 6-5 to advance to the college softball world series beginning June 1 in Oklahoma City.
USA-365.com Broadcast Note: Internet radio USA-365.com play-by-play coverage of the Crown Point Bulldogs Softball continues with the Class 4A Regional Girls Softball Championship game Tuesday, May 30 at Chesterton High School. Coverage begins with the pregame show at 6:45 p.m. (CDT) with first pitch at 7 p.m. (CDT). Be sure to check the USA-365.com website schedule for updates on the Lady Bulldogs throughout the tournament.