Northwest Indiana's High School 'Renegade' 2018,
Week-14 'Magnificent 7' Girls Softball Poll


A Special Report by Mark Smith

Lake Central, a 3-time state champion in softball will look to raise another flag this Saturday might when they play Decatur Central in the Class 4A state softball championship game at Purdue University in West Lafayette. (Photo by Mark Smith)

ST. JOHN (06-15-2018) There's a moment in each softball game that is the same. It's timeless.
It's even bigger in the state finals. Your team takes the field. The outfielders and infielders warm up. The catcher throws the game ball down to second base and it is tossed around the infield one final time. The infielders walk towards the pitcher. Some times one of them. Sometimes all of them. One infielder drops the ball into the pitcher's glove and they all turn and walk back to their positions. The pitcher is left all alone with the softball.

And at the state finals, there she is. By herself. The name of her school is on her uniform. If she's a senior, for the final time. She has probably already technically graduated. Her classmates are in the field around her. Her friends and relatives are in the stands or watching on TV. One last game. For the big trophy. There must be nothing like it.

When I saw Alexis Holloway of Crown Point pitch in the NCAA Kentucky regional finals this month for Notre Dame, the announcers might have said this was the biggest game of her career.

No, it wasn't. Holloway pitched the Class 4A state championship final last June, beating Avon 2-1.

Win or lose, all of us want that one chance. There is nothing greater in sports than to lead your team for one final time in front of everybody you know in person or watching on TV.

Coaches have a tendency to say that the sport they spend 12 months a year preparing for is 'just a game' and doesn't really matter. I didn't accept that when I was young and I really don't accept it now.

Life is about moments and memories.

Seniors who play in the state championship game never forget it. It's the end of their high school career and, in many respects, the end of their childhood. You might not win that final game but the 'moment' is the biggest one you will ever have in sports and, as someone who has seen a lot more yesterdays than he will see tomorrows, I can promise you that no matter where you go and what you do, you will retain that memory of the day you were the starting pitcher in the state championship game.

You will remember that moment when the third baseman put the ball in your glove, turned her back and walked back to her position.

The moment when everybody you knew was watching.

Your moment. Your memory.

The 4A championship game between Lake Central and Decatur Central will be aired live in Northwest Indiana on WJOB (1230) AM and televised on FOX Sports Indiana, which is unavailable in NW Indiana.

You can watch all four state final games on the IHSAA web site. But I warn you, the feed drops out a lot.

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

St. JOHN: Lake Central charged to the state championship game behind right-hander Alexa Pinarski (22-2, 1.02 ERA), who pitched her sixth consecutive complete game, a 4-3 win over Noblesville in the semistate championship. LC defeated Kankakee Valley (26-5), Crown Point (25-6), Chesterton (25-6), Penn (21-7) and Noblesville (21-11) to get to the championship game. They have paid the cost to be the boss. I didn't know if LC is favored in the state championship game, but the Indians and Pinarski easily beat Decatur Central 8-1 back on April 7. DC has won 13 in a row including a 4-2 win over 4A No.1 Center Grove at the semistate. The Hawks (31-4) are led by all-state pitcher Karli Ricketts (15-3, 1.40 ERA) who has 172 strikeouts in 112 innings and also batted .450 (50 of 111) with 12 home runs. Sophomore Kenzie Smith (12-1, 0.50 ERA) has struck out 120 in 98 innings and she has six saves. Both will probably pitch against LC. It's the late game... 6:30 p.m. Saturday night... at the Purdue University softball field in West Lafayette. If you are going, you need to get there early. There is summer road construction in the area.

2. (4A) Crown Point (25-6)
30-2 (2017), 28-2 (2016), 29-3 (2015), 29-1 (2014), 25-5 (2013), 25-8 (2012)

CROWN POINT: Crown Point losing the 4A Sectional 2 championship game 4-2 to Lake Central doesn't look so bad with LC in the state title game. CP's hopes look good the next three years unless freshman pitchers Madi Young (11-1, 2.45) and Madi Elish (14-5, 1.70) switch to the track team. The Bulldogs' losses were to Lake Central (29-4), Harrison (26-2), New Palestine (30-1), Hamilton Southeastern (20-7) and Kankakee Valley (26-5). CP was better than expected, defending their 2017 state title. If a team could graduate an all-America pitcher and be just as good the next season and win just as many games, then every school would win state every year.

3. (4A) Chesterton (25-6)

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

CHESTERTON: A tough finish for Chesterton at the regional. The 2-1 loss to LC. The Trojans' third loss to LC this spring, ended another very good season. The Trojans never led against LC, but the chances were there. Chesterton had the tying run at third base in the fifth and sixth innings, but they never got the big hit. You cannot do much more than win 25 games in an Indiana high school softball season. All year Chesterton knew they had virtual certainty they'd be playing the regional one champion the night of May 29. And next year, despite losing six seniors, it should be the same situation again. Chesterton facing either Crown Point or Lake Central in the regional.

4. (4A) Kankakee Valley (26-5)
22-9 (2017), 29-6 (2016), 19-12 (2015), 16-13 (2014)

WHEATFIELD: Like Crown Point, Kankakee Valley's 3-2 loss to Lake Central in sectional play doesn't look so bad with Lake Central in the state title game. KV does bring back all-state catcher Madeline Swart (58 of 117, .496, 14 doubles, 46 RBIs) and home run hitter Kaylee Barrett (30-67, .448, 7 homers, 26 RBIs), but they will need pitchers. Freshman Mary Kate Schultz (6-0, 1.94 ERA, 30 strikeouts in 43 innings) will get a chance. It's a rare season when four teams in the same playoff class in the same area all win 25 games. If the Kougars find a consistent pitcher they will win more than they lose next season because they bring back enough offense. But until the IHSAA lets the Kougars go back to Class 3A in 2020, the post-season prospects for them are not great.

5. (4A) LaPorte (21-10)
17-12 (2017), 21-8 (2016), 19-12 (2015), 14-14 (2014), 12-20 (2013)

LaPORTE: LaPorte's 3-2 loss to Penn ended the Slicer season in the 4A Sectional 3 championship game and Penn lost two games later to Lake Central in the Harrison semistate. Still, it was a good year for the Slicers. LaPorte was 6-8 in the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) and 15-2 against everybody else, including 0-2 against Lake Central, a state finalist. Offense wasn't the problem for most of 2018 and it won't be in 2019. This season, LaPorte batted .393 as a team with 51 stolen bases and they graduate only three seniors. The phrase we may be looking for here is 'plug and play'.
LaPorte seems to have a winning 2019 team in search of a freshman pitcher to plug in. It happens all the time in high school softball.

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

LOWELL: Lowell lost the opening 4A playoff game to Lake Central (26-4) by a 3-2 score, but Lake Central is still playing. Lowell lost 10-0 to KV, 3-2 and 12-1 to Lake Central and 4-0 to Twin Lakes. Every other loss was by three runs or less. The Devils were 0-7 against KV, Chesterton, Lake Central and CP. Some of those teams will graduate lots of key players but some will not. Hannah Stanley (11-6, 2.68) and the entire Lowell pitching staff returns for 2019. The Devils have to hope for a sectional draw similar to what Crown Point got this season when they drew sub-.500 East Chicago and Morton in the sectional quarterfinals and semifinals. If they have to go through three state-rated teams to win the sectional every year, it will be a long time before they win another one.

7. (2A) Boone Grove (17-5)
23-4 (2017), 25-3 (2016), 24-4 (2015) 21-5 (2014)

PORTER TOWNSHIP: Boone lost the regional in a nightmare seventh inning. One minute they led Andrean 4-1 and before anyone was retired, the 59ers scored four times. Junior pitcher Kellie Marcheshi (13-5) comes back next spring and that means Boone will be good again in the Porter County Conference (PCC). Boone's losses were to Kankakee Valley (26-5), Crown Point (25-6), Morgan Township (25-3), South Central (21-9) Hamilton Southeastern (20-7) and the one to Andrean (12-15-1) that can't be explained. Why isn't Andrean rated above Boone if the 59ers defeated them in the regional championship game? I hear you but Andrean, a 3A sectional and regional champ, wasn't a .500 team. Boone played a weaker schedule (some think they need to work on for 2019) but the Wolves had a significantly better year than Andrean. Let's wait. This isn't the final poll.

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Revised: June 21, 2018.