A USA-365 special report by Mark Smith
|Team (Record) / Inning||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||R||H||E|
|CROWN POINT (1-0)||2||0||0||3||1||0||0||6||8||0|
|Madi Elish (left) Anna Holloway (middle) and Madi Young fill the lineup line for the first game of the season at Andrean. (All photos by Mark Smith)|
|CP right-hander Madi Elish fires away against Andrean. The Lady Bulldogs led all the way in the 2021 season opener.|
|CP leadoff batter Emma Smiser looks to slap her way on base early in Saturday's game. The Lady Bulldog's center fielder scored the game's first run.|
|Andrean hopes a young team will come together by playoff time, led by senior pitcher Leah Navarro (28).|
|Crown Point catcher Natalie Martinez checks the CP bench for the sign. The Lady Bulldogs have nine seniors on the roster.|
|The CP bench tries to stir things up early in the morning for the 11 a.m. game at Andrean.|
|Andrean's Avery Antczak (6) tries to get a lead off against Crown Point first baseman Grace Lucka. The Niners got 10 runners on base, but didn't score against CP.|
|CP's Madi Elish (19) hits it high and watches it fly in the season opener. Elish drove in the first run of the season in the first inning.|
|CP's Anna Hollloway sneaks up the third base line in the season opener against Andrean. Holloway scored two runs and smacked out three hits in the first game of the year.|
|CP's Emma Smiser has a last word with Madi Elish (19) before she bats leadoff for the Lady Bulldogs against Andrean.|
|Crown Point's Grace Lucka (10) and Kaleigh Klingberg feel good about CP's 6-0 victory over Andrean in the 2021 season opener.|
|Lake Central was well represented in the stands at the CP-Andrean game. The Indians might have been there to watch Andrean. But the first game between 4A No. 1 Crown Point and 4A No. 4 Lake Central is April 14 at LC.|
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Revised: April 28, 2021.
Saturday, April 3, 2021 -
50-degrees, 20 mph winds, 11 a.m. CDT start in MERRILLVILLE,
WP (starter) Madi Elish (1-0) CG, 11 Ks, 3 walks, 3 HBP
LP (starter) Leah Navarro (1-1) 3 K, 0 walks (5 1/3 innings)
CROWN POINT (1-0)
Emma Smiser (CF) 1-for-3, run scored
Madi Elish (P) 1-for-3, triple, RBI
Anna Holloway (SS) 3-for-3, triple, RBI, 2 runs scored
Madi Young (DP) 0-for-3
Grace Lucka (1B) 1-fo-3, RBI
Kaleigh Klingberg (2B) 0-for-3
Morgan Scott (3B) 1-for-3, double, RBI
Marianna Serratos (RF) 1-for-3, RBI
Brinkley Kita (LF) 0-for-3
Emily Phillips (PH) 0-for-1
Abbey Bond (SS) 1-for-4
Leah Navarro (P) 0-for-2, 2 HBP
Caleigh Doffin (CF) 0-for-3, walk
Val Tryka © 0-for-3
Addison Kammer (3B) 0-for-1, 2 walks
Tori Allen (2B) 0-for-3
Julia Schwartz (RF) 0-for-2, HBP
Libby Voliva (1B) 0-for-3
Avery Antczak (CF) 2-for-3
Grace Wardingley (PH) 1-for-1
Sophia Krzyston (PH) 0-for-1
MERRILLVILLE (04-03-2021) When Crown Point opened the 2021 softball season last Saturday with a 6-0 win over Andrean, the 59ers first home game and CP’s first game overall in almost two years, I found myself saying the same thing over and over again to the older girls, the ones I last saw in May of 2019.
“I missed you guys. I missed you.”
I also missed the 50 degree sunny days in early April when two local teams get together. And even though on this day it was 4A No. 1 Crown Point and 3A No. 3 Andrean, I don't think I was alone. I thought the overwhelming feeling among those of us of a certain age after the entire 2020 season was cancelled due to the Covid-19 virus was that everybody Saturday on the back lot at Andrean was happy to be there.
“I can't ask for a better game out of these girls after two years,” said new CP coach Angie Richwalski. “I know they all play travel ball and in other places, but these girls haven't been together on the field. They hit well. They were producing across the board. Can't really complain.”
Senior CP shortstop Anna Holloway drew no complaints. Not only did she backhand two hard ground balls in the hole at shortstop and throw Andrean runners out, Holloway was 3-for-3 including two balls pulled hard down the third base line for hits.
“We didn’t play last year, Anna said, “so we’re working really hard to be unified. Getting ready for the season. It’s a process. Every game. We need to get a little better. Get better and a little more confident each game.”
Holloway batted .378 in 30 games in 2019 with five home runs and 26 RBIs. She is highly touted as is the entire CP team. Everybody would rather be the underdog. It’s the easier role to play. Being highly rated in the state is something teams have to handle, but for the Lady Bulldogs, it was inevitable. CP’s large senior class is 56-11 in the last two seasons (there was no 2020) they played.
“We try to put it aside,” Anna said of the ranking. “We know anybody can beat anybody on any given day. We played a good team today. We just try not to let that (ranking) affect us when we go out on the field and compete.”
It was a competitive game, but Crown Point, ranked No. 1 in preseason (in Class 4A) by the Indiana softball coaches association, started eight seniors while Andrean started three freshmen and three sophomores. The final score was almost a compliment to the younger 59ers, who left 10 runners on base and made some quality defensive plays.
“That’s a great team over there,” Andrean coach Glenn Eisfelder said of Crown Point. “That’s a Division I pitcher (Madi Elish) going to the University of Arizona.”
A significant part of Andrean’s 2021 team has played together on travel teams and is hitting varsity softball at a young age. They figure to be a factor in Class 3A at the end of the season.
“I told them (his players) not to hang your heads. Remember who you were playing,” said Eisfelder. “We’re going to be good. We just had one bad inning (the 3-run fourth). No excuses. Other than that, we were right with them. And we didn't get a hit when we needed it.”
Crown Point scored in the first inning when left-handed leadoff hitter Emma Smiser slapped an infield single to shortstop, then Madi Elish tripled to right field and Anna Holloway singled to center for a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth inning Holloway singled and stole second before Grace Lucka singled.
Andrean senior pitcher Leah Navarro (1-1) got two outs, but Morgan Scott and Marriana Serrato smacked catchable balls to right field which both fell for hits, scoring three runs.
Elish (1-0) was not at her best, which is an odd thing to say about a pitcher who worked through seven shutout innings and struck out 11. The 59ers left 10 runners on base, but got only four hits.
But Elish, who was 14-5 (1.70 ERA, 119 strikeouts in 112 innings) in 2018 and 14-2 (2.01 ERA, 102 strikeouts in 94 innings) in 2019, didn’t think she was near her best.
“I think I pitched all right,” Madi said after the game. “I was throwing a lot of balls (as opposed to strikes, with 3 walks and six 3-2 counts). First game is more like practice. The more we go on, the better we’ll get.”
And the more we go on, the more 2020, a truly horrible year for so many of us will hopefully fade in memory. When I began covering high school sports in the last century, I loved the sports themselves. The kids who played them came and went. To be honest, they intimidated me a little. They were ‘other people’s children’ anyway so it was easy to forget about them once they were gone.
But since I’ve drifted deep into grandfather’s age, I’ve come to see each game as the sum of the people and the places and the looks on their faces.
Saturday was my first athletic event in seven months and my first softball game in almost two years. Thanks to everyone, parents, umpires, coaches, who spoke to me for whatever reason and to the girls in uniform. For just being there.
You don’t know how much I missed you.
DOG NOTES: Crown Point coach Angie Richwalski had to wait almost two years for her first game as Crown Point’s head varsity softball coach, but she was happy.
“Same game,” she said. “Just now I’m on the other side of it. It’s a different kind of fun. A learning experience of how to finesse the game in a new way. I really do enjoy it."
Crown Point has loaded up the early half of their 2021 schedule and my eyes were drawn to an upcoming weekend (April 16-17) when they will play 4A (pre-season) No. 7 Penn at 6 p.m. in Crown Point on a Friday night and 4A No. 15 Hamilton Southeastern (2-0) in Lafayette (at Harrison high) at 10 a.m. the next day. Before they come home, CP will then play 4A No. 17 Harrison on the Raiders’ home field. Three ranked teams in 24 hours.
“We might as well play everybody,” said coach Angie Richwalski. “We‘ve got the team. I’m excited to play.”
At least eight Lake Central girls with blue school jackets on showed up at Andrean to watch the 59ers play Crown Point. One girl said the Indians were just here to watch their friends from Andrean who play travel ball with many of them. CP’s Madi Elish added that several Crown Point girls had gone to see Lake Central play Munster earlier in the week.
“We just wanted to see a good ball game,” Madi said. “Munster and Lake Central is always a good game.”
Lake Central rated fourth state wide and is Crown Point’s arch rival in Duneland Conference softball. The two teams meet on April 14 at LC and on May 5 in Crown Point.
The Lady Bulldogs also ride to Stevensville, Michigan again to play three games in the Lakeshore Invitational on May 1. When they last played in 2019, Lakeshore was 33-11 and lost the Division II (basically Class 3A) Michigan state title game to Escanaba (34-3).
2021 CROWN POINT (4-0)
Coach Angie Richwalski (1st year)
29-5 (2019), 25-6 (2018), 30-2 (2017), 28-2 (2016), 29-3 (2015), 29-1 (2014)
Duneland Athletic Conference games in CAPS
all games begin at 4:30 p.m. unless otherwise indicated
April 3 (W) 6-0 at Andrean
April 6 (W) 13-0 (5 inn.) MICHIGAN CITY
April 7 (W) 5-2 PORTAGE
April 8 (W) 3-2 Munster
April 13 (Tues) at CHESTERTON
April 14 (Wed.) at LAKE CENTRAL
April 16 (Fri.) at Penn 6 p.m.
April 17 (Sat.) Hamilton Southeastern (at Lafayette Harrison) - 10 a.m.
April 17 (Sat.) at (West Lafayette) Harrison - 1 p.m.
April 19 (Mon) MICHIGAN CITY
April 20 (Tues) LaPORTE
April 21 (W) VALPARAISO
April 22 (Th) at Hanover Central
April 27 (Tu) at MERRILLVILLE
April 28 (W) at PORTAGE
Lakeshore Invitational at Stevensville, Michigan (times are not certain)
May 1 (S) Lakeshore - 9 a.m.
May 1 (S) Caledonia, Michigan - 11:30 a.m.
May 1 (S) Edwardsburg, Michigan - 2 p.m.
May 4 (Tu) at CHESTERTON
May 5 (W) LAKE CENTRAL
May 8 (S) Boone Grove - 9 a.m.
May 8 (S) New Prairie - 12 noon
May 10 (Tu) at Kankakee Valley
May 11 (Tu) at MICHIGAN CITY
May 12 (W) at LaPORTE
May 15 (Sat) Carmel (2 games) 10 a.m.
May 18 (Tu) VALPARAISO
May 19 (W) Lowell