Northwest Indiana's High School 'Renegade' 2018,
Week-3 'Magnificent 7' Girls Softball Poll


A Special Report by Mark Smith

Crown Point is the defending state champion but some signs point to Lake Central as the top softball team in NW Indiana this spring. (Photo by Mark Smith)

ST. JOHN (04-09-2018) It's a little difficult to figure who will do well this spring in softball when spring has apparently been postponed.

It's been unusually cold in Northwest Indiana and, while teams are attempting to play because the season is very short, I can't believe that anyone truly feels they are at their best.

I've said this many time. The only reason the softball season starts in the final week of March is because the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) wants the season to end on the second weekend in June. The IHSAA softball season could begin two weeks later and end two weeks later.

Not only would that push the season openers into April, it would push the playoffs beyond the dates of most high school graduations. Conflicts with mid-June 'travel ball' and early summer vacations are just excuses not to change. Either high school softball is something to be taken seriously or it isn't. Only eight teams are playing on the final day anyway.

School ends in early June, but the school year actually does not end until the end of June. The state softball championship games are set for June 9. They could just as easily be set for June 23. Does two weeks matter in spring weather? I'm guessing you can answer that.

Lake Central has an edge on everyone with their artificial turf field that makes almost any dry day playable. Schools with artificial turf football fields can practice on them but only LC (for the time being) can play at 4:30 p.m. if an all-day rain stops at 2:30 p.m.

Crown Point is coming off the school's first Class 4A state championship. Kankakee Valley is coming off two state final runs in Class 3A and Lake Central has won at least 20 games for 29 years in a row.

Does that mean that LC, CP and KV are the Top-3 teams in Northwest Indiana for 2018? Maybe.

Will it ever get warm? Maybe.

1. (4A) Lake Central (3-0)
23-9 (2017), 24-7 (2016), 29-7-1 (2015), 20-9 (2014), 23-7 (2013)

St. JOHN: LC won three games in a row over Munster, Chesterton and Lowell before the weather wiped out a showdown game with Crown Point. Senior Madison Tucker had five hits and five RBIs in her first 11 at-bats. Junior Olivia Peterson hit two homeruns in her first seven at-bats. Alex Pinarski (2-0) has 13 strikeouts and just four hits allowed in her first 11 frosty innings. LC's stats are 'all real' because they don't play many (or any) weak teams. The fear here is that, despite five future Division I players on the roster, LC is probably going to have to defeat two Top-20 teams just to get out of the sectional. Saturday's game was scheduled to be at Pendleton Heights.

2. (4A) Kankakee Valley (1-0)
22-9 (2017), 29-6 (2016), 19-12 (2015), 16-13 (2014)

WHEATFIELD: KV has only played a 10-0 win over Morgan Township. Pitcher Emma Maple (17-6, 1.65 ERA) is back with catcher Madeline (Maddy) Swart (54 of 116, 465) and homerun leader Kaylee Barrett (31 of 108, 9 HRs, .287, 33 RBIs) will be back for two more years. Maple (42 of 105, .400, 6 HRs, 45 RBIs) had a top 2017 at the plate as well. When I wrote last season's final poll, I forgot that two long playoff runs in Class 3A would push the Kougars up to Class 4A. That's unfortunate. KV was a state contender in Class 3A. In 4A, they are in the 4A Sectional 1 with Lake Central, Munster and Crown Point. Those are probably four of the top 20 teams in the state and, again, only one can get out of the sectional.

3. (4A) Chesterton (3-1)
25-7 (2017), 17-8 (2016), 17-9 (2015), 18-14 (2014), 22-5 (2013), 21-11 (2012)

CHESTERTON: The Trojans took a 10-4 stomping from Lake Central, but three early wins over Hanover, Hobart and Griffith have them looking good as they wait for warmer weather. The Trojans lost only four seniors and returned catcher Shelby Grimm (.414, 19 stolen bases) to anchor the 2018 team. Grimm is one of five Chesterton players who are committed to play at Division I schools. Pitchers Lauren Anderson (13-3, 2.12 ERA) and Lexie Benko (9-2, 2.21 ERA), the only pitchers the Trojans used in the post-season, both return from a team that won 14 consecutive games in the second half of the season. Having two experienced pitchers helps when the postponed games pile up (as they already are) and when you play three games in three days at the sectional. If you had to bet on one team to win its sectional, it's the Trojans. Chesterton is still in 4A Sectional 2, which makes them much more likely to reach the regional that anybody in 4A Sectional 1.

4. (4A) Munster (3-1)
16-11 (2017), 7-15 (2016), 13-17 (2015), 16-9 (2014)

MUNSTER: Munster has lost 8-4 to Lake Central and beaten everybody else. Senior Amy Kaniewski (2-0), who was not asked to pitch against sectional rival LC, had 23 strikeouts in her first 12 innings this spring. Sophomore Daija Williams collected seven hits in her first 16 at bats. Freshman Hailey Sullivan (6 of 14, .429) had a hit in all four games, including a 3-for-3 in a 10-0 win over Portage. Senior Sara Mavity is a career .342 (41 of 120) hitter. Senior Rebecca Radtke, a career .389 (77 of 198) hitter had six hits in her first 15 at bats this spring. You get the point. This is a good offensive team and when Kaniewski pitches, they are in business. Here's a team that could get by all the LCs and KVs and CPs at the sectional if they get the right draw.

5. (4A) Crown Point (2-0)
30-2 (2017), 28-2 (2016), 29-3 (2015), 29-1 (2014), 25-5 (2013), 25-8 (2012)

CROWN POINT: I'd rank CP higher, but I don't know who's pitching. Freshmen right-handers Madi Young and Madi Elish are ready to go, but they have no track record and CP is still playing the schedule they've loaded up over the last 10 years. Crown Point will take on 3A state champ New Palestine (31-2 last season), superpower Hamilton Southeastern, big and rich Carmel, (West Lafayette) Harrison, (Mishawaka) Marian, southwest Michigan powers Edwardsburg (34-8 in 2017) and Lakeshore (33-7-1 in 2017) as well as two games each against local 'pals' Lake Central, Chesterton and LaPorte. The good news is that they have most of the position players back from the defending 4A state championship team, including first baseman Grace Frazier (29 of 75, .384), center fielder Mallory McMahon (23 of 81, .284), infielder Maggie Ballentine (18 of 61, .295), left fielder Lydia Byrd (16 of 60, .266) and infielder Caitlyn Phillips (24 of 75, .320). They won't have much power, but they will have a lot of speed. Freshman Anna Holloway is starting at shortstop and she is very highly regarded and it's obviously easier to excel as a freshman shortstop than it is as a freshman pitcher. The Bulldogs will be a running, bunting, base and run stealing bunch that will be entertaining. And you can add 'winning bunch' if the pitching is good. Crown Point will also host the 4A sectional and, again, that will include Kankakee Valley, Lake Central and Munster. Remember, four of those five will be eliminated in the first three days of the state tournament.

6. (4A) LaPorte (1-0)
17-12 (2017), 21-8 (2016), 19-12 (2015), 14-14 (2014), 12-20 (2013)

LaPORTE: The Slicers may start slowly despite a 15-1 win over Michigan City and a 4-3 triumph over Hobart. LaPorte is breaking in some new players and new coach Ryan Sosinski, a long time youth coach and umpire, who is also the LaPorte football defensive coordinator. The new Slicer pitcher is Avery Wolfenberger, a senior, who takes over for Riley Galloway, who excelled for much of four seasons. Wolfenberger (2-0) has 12 strikeouts and no walks in 10 innings in the first two spring wins. Due to an injury to Galloway, Wolfenberger pitched much of the 2017 season and was 7-6 with a 1.17 ERA. She also batted .320 (31 of 97) with 25 RBIs. The Slicers also return Emily Wolfsen, a .335 career hitter (58 of 173) who batted .387 (36 of 93) last season. Sophomore shortstop Shelby Linn had six hits in her first eight chilly at-bats this spring. LaPorte, like Chesterton, is in the correct group of NW Indiana softball teams. There are the teams that think they have a good chance to win the sectional and there are teams who are in 4A Sectional 1, where the odds are actually against any one school winning.

7. (4A) Lowell (0-1)
16-11 (2017), 7-15 (2016), 13-17 (2015), 16-9 (2014)

LOWELL: Lowell, like a lot of teams, has spent a lot of time in the field house this spring. They have an early loss to Lake Central, but a lot of teams are going to lose to LC. The Devils return Hailey Boylan (32 of 70, .457, 34 RBIs) a power hitting catcher who had 32 base hits including 10 home runs in 2017. The Devils return first baseman Gaby Maeleve (34 of 92, .400), sophomore Ryleigh Marsh (33 of 80, .412) who scored 26 runs, and junior third baseman Alyssa Sharkey (30 of 83, .361), who had four homers and 22 RBIs. Lowell batted .352 as a team in 2017. Pitchers Haven Stanley (6-2, 2.48 ERA) and Delaney Huber (3-3, 3.24 ERA) only have to be pretty good to keep the Devils in games.

Lowell has most of their 2017 team back and you rarely get that. Now they have to do something with it. And again, in the post-season. Lowell is in the dark place. The 'dark place' being 4A Sectional 1 with LC, CP, KV, Munster, etc. The June 2 state softball poll had Crown Point ranked first, Lake Central second, Chesterton seventh and Munster 15th.

What about us ...?

8. (3A) Hanover Central (25-4)
2017 (25-4), 2016 (24-5), 2015 (22-11), 2014 (29-5), 2013 (18-10)

CEDAR LAKE: Nobody graduated more good players than Hanover. The core of a team that went 100-25 in four years is moving on to college. Alexis Mokos (45 of 1-02, 8 HRs, 35 RBIs), Skyler Barnett (47 of 92, .511, 3 HRs, 48 runs scored), Alyssa Gill (41 of 92, .446, 8 HRs, 52 RBIs), Sophia Barbosa (18 of 62, .290, 4 HRs, 13 RBIs), Dakota Ward (22 of 60, .367), Marley Hanlon (43 of 87, .494) all graduated in June and Hanlon was 24-3 with a 1.54 ERA). Who's left? A few who played: Camryn Veteto (33 of 86, .394) who scored 31 runs, Ashtyn Barnett (24 of 75, .320), Kylee Gill (12 of 33, .364). And two freshman pitchers who will now get their chance. Hanover always seems to find pitching. The 2018 season will put that tradition to the ultimate test.

2018 CROWN POINT Bulldogs (2-0)
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 weekday games- 4:30 p.m.
March 26 (W) 13-0 (5 innings) at Hobart
March 28 (W) 12-7 at PORTAGE
April 3 (rain) 4A No. 7 CHESTERTON
April 4 (cold) 4A No. 6 LAKE CENTRAL
April 6 (snow) at Munster
April 9 (Mon) 4A No. 2 Lake Central
April 10 (Tues) at MICHIGAN CITY
April 11 (Wed.) at LaPORTE
April 14 (Sat.) 4A No. 13 (West Lafayette) Harrsion (2 games) 11 a.m.
April 17 (Tues.) VALPARAISO
April 18 (Wed.) at MERRILLVILLE
April 24 (Tues.) PORTAGE
April 25 (Wed.) at 4A No. 7 CHESTERTON

Lakeshore Invitational
Lakeshore High School (Stevensville, Michigan) 11 a.m. (EST) round robin

April 28 (Sat) Lakeshore, Michigan
April 28 (Sat.) Edwardsburg, Michigan
April 28 (Sat) (Mishawaka, Ind.) Marian

May 1 (Tues.) at 4A No. 6 LAKE CENTRAL
May 3 (Thurs.) 4A No. 2 Penn - 5 p.m.
May 5 (Sat) 4A No. 5 Hamilton Southeastern - 10 a.m.
May 5 (Sat) 2A No. 3 Boone Grove - 2 p.m.
May 7 (Tues.) at Kankakee Valley
May 8 (Wed.) LaPORTE
May 9 (Thurs.) at VALPARAISO
May 12 (Sat) at 3A No. 1 New Palestine - 9 a.m. (CST)
May 12 (Sat) at Carmel - 11 a.m.
May 14 (Mon) at Highland
May 16 (Wed.) at Lowell

4A CROWN POINT Sectional 1
at Crown Point High School
May 21 (Mon) quaterfinals - 5 p.m.
May 22 (Tues.) quarterfinals - 5 p.m.
May 23 (Wed.) semifinals - 5 p.m.
May 24 (Thurs.) championship - 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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Revised: April 08, 2018.