Indiana High School 2017 Girls Softball 4A State Preview

6-10-2017

A USA-365.com Special Report by Mark Smith

CP fans will hit the highway sometime Saturday to watch the Lady Bulldogs try for the first state championship in the 33 years of the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) state softball tourney. CP plays Avon at 6:30 p.m. Crown Point time. (Photo by Mark Smith)

4A State Softball Championship

6-10-2017 at Ben Davis high school - 1200 Girls School, Road, Indianapolis - 7:30 p.m. EDT (6:30 p.m. CDT)

No. 3 CROWN POINT (27-2) vs. No. 12 Avon (23-8)
(Understand that the starting time on 7:30 p.m. EDT could be affected if the 3A state final between Kankakee Valley and New Palestine goes into extra innings. CP-Avon won't start before 7:30 p.m. but it could begin later than that.)

TV: On Fox Sports Indiana (not on free TV or basic cable) live.
Fox Sports will rerun all four state title games several times. The trick is: Trying to find out which channel the game will be on.

3 a.m. Sunday (June 11) on Fox Sports Atlantic
1 p.m. Sunday (June 11) on Fox College Sports Central
6:30 p.m. Monday (June 12) on Fox Sports Indiana and Fox Sports Midwest
4 p.m. (June 16) on Fox College Sports Atlantic.
12 midnight (June 22) on Fox College Sports Atlantic

Radio: No over-the-air radio in NW Indiana. Live Internet radio coverage on www.USA-365.com starting at 6:15 p.m. CDT (7:15 p.m. EDT).

WEATHER: Upper 80s, only slightly cooler as the sun sets. The Ben Davis high school web site (yeah, they give the weather) says the high Saturday will be 85 degrees. That's probably what you can expect at 7:30 Eastern time. With daylight until 10 p.m. in June in the eastern time zone, the entire game figures to be played in some daylight and with peak temperatures. Chance of rain: Zero. None. Won't happen. The only reason to take an umbrella is for shade.

ENROLLMENT: Avon (2,993) public school in eastern Hendicks County; CROWN POINT (2,763) public school in south Lake County
 


CROWN POINT vs. AVON

Avon is not a new place. It was settled in the 1800s. But it was incorporated as a town in 1995, and is apparently a very popular place to live, five miles west of Indianapolis. Avon is a suburb of about 17,000 people that has tripled in population since 2000. It is said that the area around the actual town, 'Greater Avon' has as many as 45,000 people. Hendicks County is the second fastest growing county in Indiana.

In 1987, the IHSAA school directory listed Avon high school with 951 students. Today, it says they have 2,763.

There is nothing special about the name. It is said that Avon was named after a spike that a worker put into the ground when the railroad was built. Lots of places are named after a railroad stop or the post office.

Avon's recent softball strength centers on the 'Power of 3', senior sisters Kamrie, Sydney and Haylie Foster, who will all be playing their final game Saturday at Ben Davis.

Haylie Foster (12-2) has a 1.02 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 82 innings, but she has pitched in a lot of playoff games. Haylie was 18-4 last season, including six wins in a row in the state tournament, allowing five hits in the state title game against Penn. She allowed one hit and struck out eight last Saturday as Avon beat Gibson Southern 2-0 in the semistate game in Bedford. At just 5-foot-6, Haylie is not a strikeout pitcher, but the right-hander's strength is keeping hitters off balance. The pitching Foster is 51-14 in her three-year career for the Orioles, who have won 11 playoff games in a row.

Avon does have a second senior pitcher in Amy Miller (10-3, 2.03 ERA), who has pitched 103 innings for the Orioles. But I'd be shocked if she starts this game. I really would be. Haylie Foster just topped a very good Gibson Southern team. Coach Jennifer Jones may use both of his seniors to keep CP off balance a little. That would not be a surprise.

But the Fosters are clearly the heart of the team. Haylie Foster (35 of 79, .443) has three home runs and 22 RBIs. Kamrie Foster (35 of 89, .393), the second baseman, also has a team-leading 35 base hits. Left fielder Sydnie Foster (20 of 57, .351) is the third left-handed hitter in the lineup for Avon, which lost 2-1 to Penn and 6-3 to Lake Central in April.

Nothing about Avon's offensive statistics scare you. But, in truth, the same can be said of Crown Point. A lot of teams that play top competition don't have great stats like Kankakee Valley and New Palestine have in the 3A title game. Avon bats .310 as a team and they have just 65 extra base hits in 32 games. That's good, but they don't have 64 home runs and 138 extra base hits like New Palestine or a .419 team batting average like 2A power Scecina (25-4). Crown Point has seven home runs all season.

The Orioles start two freshmen including speedy leadoff batter and center fielder Tiara Edwards (32 of 92, .348) and third baseman Sydney Jones (16 of 69, .232). Edwards has 13 stolen bases and she will run when she gets on. There's little doubt about that.

Left-handed hitting junior Paige Eichelberger (30 of 88, .341) has a team leading 32 RBIs. Avon was 26-5 last season and 22-5 the year before with the Foster sisters. Avon has 57 stolen bases in 68 attempts. They will try to run.

Oriole pitchers have just 191 strikeouts in 207 innings (CP has 327 strikeouts in 214 innings), but Avon has allowed just 58 earned runs in 31 games against a big school schedule that includes Lake Central, Penn, Harrison, Cathedral and Gibson Southern. That tells me the Orioles have an outstanding defense.

Crown Point has the top-level pitcher you see a lot in state title games. Alexis Holloway (21-1, 0.22 ERA) has 271 strikeouts in 158 innings. She has allowed just five earned runs, 60 base hits and 19 walks all year. Avon used the bunt a lot in last year's title game and they almost certainly will do it again Saturday because Holloway has allowed just five earned runs all season.

The good news for Crown Point is that MacKenzie Dunlap (37 of 87, .425) has been a power leadoff batter with 18 extra base hits. The bad news is that, after she leads off the game, Avon will almost certainly pitch around her.

No. 2 hitter Grace Frazier (28 of 72, .389) drove in the winning run last week against Penn, but she has just two extra base hits all season.

Crown Point's strength has been bunting. They can all bunt and it bothers teams in close games. The Lady Bulldogs also have a lot of foot speed. This game will probably be decided by an unearned run. Avon won the state title last year on bunts and an unearned run.

Penn is a far better hitting team than Avon and they struck out 20 times against Holloway in 13 innings. But that may be misleading. After the first two hitters, Penn girls stepped up in the front of the batters box and swung away.

It didn't work. I don't think Avon is going to do that.

The simplest factor may be the biggest. Crown Point is the 'home' team Saturday, meaning they bat last. In softball you always want to bat last.

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Revised: June 10, 2017.