Northwest Indiana's High School 'Renegade' 2018,
Week-10 'Magnificent 7' Girls Softball Poll


A Special Report by Mark Smith

The 'welcome' may have different meaning to different teams this week at Crown Point as Class 4A No. 2 Lake Central, Class 4A No. 7 Kankakee Valley and Class 4A No. 8 Crown Point all play in 4A Sectional 1 during the opening week of the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) state softball tournament. (Photo by Mark Smith)

ST. JOHN (05-20-2018) The 34th state softball tournament begins this week and the 'hurry up' format eliminates all but 32 of the 379 eligible schools. Sectional play begins at 64 sites as early as Monday, May 21 and with the awkward Tuesday night Regionals set for May 29, there will only be eight teams remaining in each of the four playoff classes for the semistate tournaments on June 2.

The good news for those of us in Northwest Indiana is that the site of the state finals has moved. The four state championship games will be held Saturday, June 9 at Purdue University in West LaFayette.

The three-year old, $13 million dollar, 1,000-seat Bittinger Stadium has heated dugouts, TV-quality lights for the night games, radio and TV press boxes and a locker room for softball.

There was nothing wrong with the old site: Ben Davis high school on the far west side of Indianapolis. But it wasn't as large as the Purdue site. Last year's Avon-Crown Point game drew an overflow crowd to Ben Davis, which is a very large high school.

When the stands filled, a lot of people staked out locations down the outfield foul lines and they really didn't have a good view of the game.

The best thing for NW Indiana teams and fans that may want to attend the state finals is that Bittinger stadium is about an 70 miles closer to home than Ben Davis is. Truth be told, I don't really care about the heated dugouts.

As the state tournament begins, sometimes players who used to play for your high school return from college to watch the present-day team play. For Crown Point, that won't be possible for awhile.

2017 CP graduate Alexis Holloway is 21-13 at Notre Dame (33-21) with a 2.29 ERA in 33 starts and 214 innings. 2016 Crown Point graduate Miranda Elish is 21-1 with an 0.96 ERA in 20 starts and 146 innings at Oregon (49-7). 2017 graduate MacKenzie Dunlap didn't hit as well as she'd have liked (.208) but she has started all 54 games for Northwestern (37-17) and posted a .357 on-base percentage while leading her team in assists at third base. All three of those teams won their opening regional games in the 64-team NCAA tournament last week.

1. (4A) Lake Central (23-4)
23-9 (2017), 24-7 (2016), 29-7-1 (2015), 20-9 (2014), 23-7 (2013)

St. JOHN: LC has posted 20 softball wins for the 30th season in a row, an unprecedented feat. They probably don't care about that (they may not know it) while they're getting ready for next week's Crown Point Sectional. The Indians stopped LaPorte 5-0 last Thursday as Alex Pinarski (13-2, 1.05 ERA) struck out six in five scoreless innings. Gabi Carra (28-68, .412) has five home runs and 21 RBIs. Selena Michko (27-66, .409) has four home runs and 21 RBIs. LC was hitting .365 as a team after 23 games. LC topped Highland 14-2 Wednesday after a 10-0 walkover Michigan City Tuesday. LC lost 12-11 at Kankakee Valley (25-3) Friday afternoon as the Kougars came back with 8 runs in the bottom of the 7th-inning. LC and KV should meet again in the semifinals at Crown Point five days later. The Indians only other losses are to Crown Point, Avon and Franklin Central. It's hard to argue they aren't the No.1 team on the regular season.

2. (4A) Crown Point (23-5)
30-2 (2017), 28-2 (2016), 29-3 (2015), 29-1 (2014), 25-5 (2013), 25-8 (2012)

CROWN POINT: It's hardly unusual for a defending state champ to lose a few more games the next year. CP has five losses after losing two in 2017. It is unusual for a team with two freshman pitchers to win 20 games, though. Crown Point's Madi Elish (13-4, 1.93 ERA) had an interesting couple of days. On May 8, she pitched a four-hit shutout and struck out 10 in a 5-0 win over LaPorte. Last Saturday she allowed 16 hits to the state's top offensive team, 3A No. 1 New Palestine (22-1) in a 9-5 loss. On Monday, Elish allowed four hits and struck out 11 in an 11-0 win over Highland. a game where junior Mallory McMahon hit two home runs. CP rallied to beat Lowell 4-2 on May 16 to end the regular season. The Bulldogs' losses were to Lake Central (23-4), Harrison (22-2), New Palestine (23-1), Hamilton Southeastern (20-6) and Kankakee Valley (25-3). Crown Point has a quarterfinal match with Morton and a semifinal game against East Chicago in the 4A Sectional 1 playoffs. The Bulldogs will then see the survivor between KV and LC.

3. (4A) Chesterton (21-4)

25-7 (2017), 17-8 (2016), 17-9 (2015), 18-14 (2014), 22-5 (2013), 21-11 (2012)

CHESTERTON: Let's make this simple. As far as I can tell, with just four losses, Chesterton has lost only to Lake Central 1-0 and 10-4 and to Crown Point 3-2 and 2-1. Chesterton is NOT in the 4A Sectional 1 with LC (20-3) and CP (20-5) and they are very happy about that. The Trojans drew Hobart (6-11-1) in the quarterfinals of the six team Class 4A Sectional 2 at Merrillville and they will be the favorite. Not that they're afraid of LC or CP. But since the state tourney is single-elimination, I'm guessing the Trojans are OK with a setup that cannot pit them against Lake Central or Crown Point until the one-game regional on May 29. Chesterton coasted to wins over Highland 12-4, Clay 9-1 and Concord 16-1 last week and they also topped Lowell 7-4 and LaPorte 3-1. The Trojans face Hobart (10-15-1) in quarterfinals of the Merrillville sectional Monday night, May 21. Is KV better than Chesterton? The Trojans topped KV 4-3 in eight innings on May 14 for what that's worth, which is probably very little.

4. (4A) Kankakee Valley (25-3)
22-9 (2017), 29-6 (2016), 19-12 (2015), 16-13 (2014)

WHEATFIELD: KV topped Crown Point 7-6, rallying from a 6-0 deficit and the Kougars ran their winning streak to 17 games at the start of the week. Last Friday the kougars rallied from even further down with 8 runs in the bottom of the 7th-inning to come back against top-rated Lake Central 12-11. The senior core of Emma Maple (47 of 93, .505, 5 HRs, 38 RBIs), Ashley Fisher (45 of 93, 6 HRs, 46 RBIs). Lindsey Stokes (35 of 85, .412), Sarah Starr (23 of 54, .426) and Kendall Winnick (28 of 71, .394) has helped the Kougars bat .449 as a team withn 296 runs (11.5 per game) in 25 games.
KV playstopped Kokomo (18-5) and junior pitcher Lauren Hicks (16-5, 1.68 ERA and 188 strikeouts) in 125 innings) Thursday 4-3 KV. Kankakee Valley faces Munster (14-8) in the Crown Point Sectional quarterfinals on Monday, May 21. They would then play LC and then Crown Point. Nobody has a tougher path to that sectional trophy.

5. (4A) LaPorte (17-9)
17-12 (2017), 21-8 (2016), 19-12 (2015), 14-14 (2014), 12-20 (2013)

LaPORTE: Straight talk? LaPorte is 0-2 against Lake Central, 0-2 against Crown Point, 0-2 against Chesterton and 17-3 against everybody else. Since LC and CP are in 4A Sectional 1. Chesterton is in 4A Sectional 2 and LaPorte is in 4A sectional 3. Of course, 4A No. 9 Penn (18-5) is also in 4A Sectional 3 but LaPorte cannot meet them until Friday's sectional championship game. Senior pitcher Ashley Wolfenbarger (14-9, 2.94 ERA) has taken some losses to the Duneland Athletic Conference's 'Big-3' but she does have 152 strikeouts in 143 innings and she'll be starting against Penn. No doubt about that. LaPorte bats .387 as a team with 16 homers and 42 stolen bases. They won't win games 1-0 or 2-1. The Slicers have to put a few runs on the board. That job will fall to top hitters Olivia Zarantonello (33 of 76, .434), Emily Linn (38 of 84, .452) and senior Rylee Penziol (36 of 87, .414, 6 HRs). LaPorte has eight DAC losses. LaPorte drew Plymouth (2-22) in the Sectional 3 quarterfinals and they'll almost certainly play Mishawaka (12-11) in the semifinals. You won't hear anybody at LaPorte complaining about the softball state tournament draw.

6. (4A) Munster (14-10-1)
16-11 (2017), 7-15 (2016), 13-17 (2015), 16-9 (2014)

MUNSTER: Munster lost 5-4 to Penn (18-5) in eight innings last week and dropped a 4-2 game to suburban Chicago superpower Lincoln-Way Central (25-2) Tuesday and a 5-4 game to LaPorte.
Munster still had a double-header with 3A power St Joseph's (18-5) on May 19, the final day of the regular season. The Mustangs are a relatively young team but senior Rebecca Radtke (38 of 85, .447) scored 30 runs in 25 games. Senior Sara Mavity (28 of 81, .346) had 21 RBIs in 25 games. Senior Sarah Johnson (29 of 79, .367) has eight of Munster's 44 stolen bases in 25 games. Why are the Lady Ponies taking on all these tough teams? They play in the state's toughest sectional, 4A Sectional 1. Munster drew KV (24-3) in the 4A Sectional quarterfinals and then they'd see Lake Central (24-3) in the semifinals. They have not defeated either one this year. Does playing a super-tough schedule help you in the post-season? Munster is about to find out.

7. (4A) Lowell (15-8-1)
16-11 (2017), 7-15 (2016), 13-17 (2015), 16-9 (2014)

LOWELL: The Devils are 0-2 against KV and a combined 0-3 against Chesterton and CP. They split with both Munster (14-10-1) and Highland (13-11). The Devils' other loss was to Twin Lakes (17-8). No losses to losing teams. That's a good season. Lowell batted .360 as a team through 25 games with 19 home runs and 36 stolen bases. Senior Gabi Malave (33 of 77, .429) hit five home runs and drove in 34 RBIs. Riley Marsh (38 of 70, .543) may have broken some Red Devil records with a team-leading 38 hits as a sophomore. The Devils lost to Crown Point 4-2 last week and Chesterton topped them 7-4 last Thursday. Lowell got the worst draw, facing Lake Central (24-3) in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, May 22. As I said last week, if the Devils pull off a king-sized upset and beat LC, the Devils would then face Munster or Kankakee Valley (25-3) in the semifinals. If Lowell were to pull two larger-than-life upsets, they would face defending state champion Crown Point (24-5) in the sectional final at Crown Point. I wish I saw a path forward for the Devils next week, but I also wish that 4A No. 8 Kankakee Valley had been put in the Sectional 2 where they most certainly (That's where the KV basketball team is) belong. Four of the seven teams in this poll will be eliminated in the first four days of the state tournament. That's not a prediction. Five of these schools are in 4A Sectional 1. Four of them will have a very short post-season.

2018 CROWN POINT Bulldogs (23-5)
30-2 (2017), 28-2 (2016), 29-3 (2015), 29-1 (2014), 25-5 (2013)
Coach Pete Iussig (2nd year) 30-2
Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) games in CAPs - all weekdays games- 4:30 p.m.
March 26 (W) 13-0 (5 innings) at Hobart
March 28 (W) 11-7 at PORTAGE (3-10)
April 3 (rain) CHESTERTON
April 4 (rain) LAKE CENTRAL
April 6 (snow) at Munster
April 10 (W) 13-3 (5 inn.) at MICHIGAN CITY (0-13)
April 11 (W.) 17-5 (6 inn.) at LaPORTE (13-5)
April 12 (W) 3-2 CHESTERTON (14-4)
April 14 (W) 9-4 (West Lafayette) Harrison (14-2)
April 14 (L) 0-1 (West Lafayette) Harrison (14-2)
April 15 (Snow) LAKE CENTRAL
April 17 (W) 10-0 VALPARAISO (8-5)
April 18 (W) 10-0 (5 inn.) at MERRILLVILLE (0-15)
April 19 (W) 13-4 LAKE CENTRAL (18-3)
April 24 (W) 8-2 PORTAGE (3-10)
April 25 (W) 2-1 (8 inn.) at CHESTERTON (14-4)

Lakeshore Invitational
Lakeshore high school (Stevensville, Michigan) round robin
April 28 (W) 5-3 (8 inn.) Lakeshore Michigan (4-1)
April 28 (W) 14-3 (5 inn.) Edwardsburg, Michigan (6-4)
April 28 (W) 12-1 (5 inn.)) Marian (9-6)

May 1 (L) 1-9 at 4A No. 2 LAKE CENTRAL (18-3)
May 2 (W) 9-2 MICHIGAN CITY (0-17)
May 4 (canceled) 4A No. 5 Penn (5-2) 5 p.m.
May 5 (L) 0-1 (10 inn.) Hamilton Southeastern (15-5)
May 5 (W) 11-1 (5 inn.) Boone Grove (9-6)

May 7 (L) 6-7 at Kankakee Valley (25-3)
May 8 (W) 5-0 LaPORTE (13-5)
May 9 (W) 7-6 (8-inn.) at VALPARAISO (8-5)
May 12 (L) 5-9 at 3A No. 1 New Palestine (16-1) 10 a.m. (CST)
May 12 (W) 4-2 at Carmel (9-10) 2 p.m.
May 14 (W) 11-0 at Highland (11-6)
May 15 (W) 10-0 (6-inn.) MERRILLVILLE (0-15)
May 16 (W) 4-2 at Lowell (12-4-1)

4A CROWN POINT Sectional 1
at Crown Point High School
May 21 (Mon.) Morton - 5 p.m.
May 23 (Wed.) East Chicago - 5 p.m.
May 24 (Thurs.) championship (probably vs. LC (18-3) 5 p.m.

May 29 (Tues) Regional Championship - TBA (one game)

4A Harrison Semistate
at Harrison high school (West Lafayette)
June 2 (Sat.) semifinals - 10 a.m.
June 2 (Sat.) championship - 7 p.m.

4A State championship game
at Ben Davis high school (Indianapolis)
June 9 (Sat.) 5 p.m.

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