Northwest Indiana's High School 'Renegade' 2018,
Week-8 'Magnificent 7' Girls Softball Poll


A Special Report by Mark Smith

The 2017 Class 4A state champions are honored on the back of the Crown Point high school softball stadium grandstand. The 2018 state tourney begins on Monday, May 21. (Photo by Mark Smith)

ST. JOHN (05-07-2018) Kankakee Valley was the big winner of the week, outscoring four teams 60-4 and topping Munster 5-0 to win the 2018 Twin Lakes Invitational in Monticello.

The semifinal win over small school power Pioneer (18-3) was a key win. Ashley Fisher (40 of 75, .433) hit her sixth home run of the year in the 10-0 win.

Now KV did beat some smaller schools at Twin Lakes, but you can question the schedule of almost all Northwest Indiana teams this year.

In the eight team Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC), Merrillville (0-15) and Michigan City (0-13) are both winless. That means that the top teams Lake Central, Crown Point and Chesterton both play four games (the DAC has a double round-robin league schedule) against winless foes, something they would not schedule if they had the choice. Hobart and Andrean are the only sub-.500 teams in the Northwest Crossroads Conference this year. But in the Greater South Shore Conference (GSSC), only Griffith has even been able to play more than 16 games.

What I'm suggesting is: This is a not a good year in softball in NW Indiana.

Not compared to past years. Past state champs Whiting, Andrean and Hanover Central are rebuilding with younger players.

Even in Class 4A, the teams with the top-heavy winning records may be vulnerable because they haven't faced tough league battles this spring. What does that mean for the upcoming state tournament?
Maybe nothing.

The only level of play that is guaranteed to have a Northwest Indiana team reach the semistate is 4A. KV reached the state finals in Class 3A the last two years, but they got bumped up to 4A and I don't see a 3A team that can win even the semifinal at the 3A Semistate at Twin Lakes.

The 4A team at the West Lafayette (Harrison) semistate will see someone like Penn (12-5), Homestead (14-2), Hamilton Southeastern (15-5) or Harrison (16-2). I don't think there's very much to choose from between those four teams and Lake Central or Crown Point.

Heading into the final two weeks of the season, weather is no longer an issue unless it's that the girls might not be in shape to play multiple games during an 80-degree day. The only state tournament round that plays more than one game in the same day anymore is the semistate, so multiple games on hot days is a problem most teams wish they will have.

1. (4A) Lake Central (18-3)
23-9 (2017), 24-7 (2016), 29-7-1 (2015), 20-9 (2014), 23-7 (2013)

St. JOHN: LC's earned a Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) split with rival Crown Point with a 9-1 win over CP last week. Looks like that 'series' won't be decided until (and if) CP and LC meet in the Class 4A Sectional 1 final game on May 24. Alexa Pinarski (11-2, 1.27 ERA), who was the losing pitcher at Crown Point, pitched all seven innings for the victory when CP came to Lake Central, allowing seven hits and no walks. The Indians began the week with six games to play including a matchup with Kankakee Valley (18-2) on May 18. The only clear cut difference between CP and LC is that Lake Central is the older team. More seniors including a senior pitcher in Pinarski.

2. (4A) Crown Point (17-3)
30-2 (2017), 28-2 (2016), 29-3 (2015), 29-1 (2014), 25-5 (2013), 25-8 (2012)

CROWN POINT: Crown Point lost 1-0 to Hamilton Southeastern (15-5) before topping Boone Grove 11-1 Saturday. The Bulldogs have lost two 1-0 home games this year, a concern because they're probably going to play some 1-0, 2-1 games in the Crown Point sectional. The freshman pitching duo of right-handers Madi Elish (10-2) and Madi Young (7-1) has alternated from game-to-game with good success. Other than the 9-1 loss at LC, the pitching has held up. I get the feeling that Crown Point needs more challenges and that means they will be interested when they get off the bus at defending 3A state champ New Palestine (16-1) Saturday morning (05-12-2018). New Palestine leads the state with 48 home runs in 17 games. CP also travels to Carmel Saturday at 2 p.m.
Crown Point's game with Penn was cancelled due to postponements and league schedule requirements leaving the Bulldogs with 26 regular season games.

3. (4A) Chesterton (14-4)

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

CHESTERTON: Unless I am mistaken, Chesterton's only losses are 10-4 and 1-0 to Lake Central and 3-2 and 2-1 to Crown Point. The Trojans drew Hobart (6-11-1) in the quarterfinals of the six team Class 4A Sectional 2 at Merrillville this month. Chesterton did not get a quarterfinal bye so they must win three times. But the Trojans can only face teams they have already defeated during the regular season.

4. (4A) Kankakee Valley (18-2)
22-9 (2017), 29-6 (2016), 19-12 (2015), 16-13 (2014)

WHEATFIELD: The five victory win at The Twin Lakes Invitational had to be good for the Kougars, who didn't get to play a lot early due to bad weather. The only losses here are 6-5 to Munster and 6-3 to Lowell, but there are no 'big' wins among the 18 good days. Senior Emma Maple (10-2, 1.19 ERA) has four shutouts and KV bats .456 as a team with 24 home runs. They have three players in Maple (38 of 73, .521); Maddie Swart (43 of 77, .558) and Ashley Fisher (40 of 75, .433) who have played in 20 games, batted 70 times and are hitting over .500. But this is the last roundup for this team. Five starters are seniors. This is largely the same group that lost the 3A state championship game to New Palestine in 2017 but, since they will now be in the 4A playoffs, this team will need to be better just to get out of sectional play. In that line of thinking, the Kougars play Crown Point (17-3) Monday night and Lake Central (18-3) on May 18, two playoff previews.

5. (4A) Munster (11-6-1)
16-11 (2017), 7-15 (2016), 13-17 (2015), 16-9 (2014)

MUNSTER: Munster lost to Pioneer in pool play at the Twin Lakes Invitational so they didn't get to play KV in the semifinals. That may have been a blessing in disguise (if it wasn't semi-intentional) because Munster has drawn KV in the quarterfinals of the 4A Crown Point sectional on May 21. Munster and KV have already met twice in Northwest Crossroads Conference (NCC) play and neither side probably had a great desire for a third regular season meeting. That would explain an 11-2 Munster loss to a Pioneer team that lost 10-0 to KV an hour later. The Mustangs lost 2-out-of-3 at Twin Lakes which is almost as much of an endurance test as it is a competition. Munster plays Penn on May 11, Chesterton on May 18 and a double-header with 3A power St Joseph's (13-3) on May 19. Munster drew KV (18-2) in the 4A Sectional quarterfinals and then they' see Lake Central (18-3) in the semifinals.

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

LOWELL: The Devils tied Munster 4-4 last week and then won 3-out-of 4 at Twin Lakes, losing to the host team in the semifinals. The Devils topped Hanover Central 10-0, Benton Central 8-3 and Rossville 11-1 and the trip was a success because they got to play four times. Lowell had been locked down by the weather most of the spring. The bad news for Lowell is that they are lumped into the mix in 4A Sectional 1 which features four other big winning teams. How bad is it? Lowell got the worst draw, facing Lake Central (18-3) in the quarterfinals on May 21. If they pull a monumental upset and beat LC, the Devils would then face Munster (11-6-1) or Kankakee Valley (18-2) in the semifinals. If Lowell were to pull two gigantic upsets, they would face defending state champion Crown Point (17-3) in the sectional final.

7. (4A) LaPorte (13-5)
17-12 (2017), 21-8 (2016), 19-12 (2015), 14-14 (2014), 12-20 (2013)

LaPORTE: Senior pitcher Ashley Wolfenbarger (10-5, 2.63 ERA) has had a couple of rough games, but she also has 110 strikeouts in 96 innings. LaPorte has taken some Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) losses, but 4A Sectional 2 in not as tough as the DAC. The Slicers have gotten a boost from sophomore Olivia Zarantonello (26 of 52, .500) to go with sophomore Emily Linn (30 of 59, .508) and senior Rylee Penzio (26 of 59, .441, 5 HRs). The five losses are all in the DAC. Most DAC teams are in Sectional 1 and 2. LaPorte, to advance to the regional, will have to defeat Penn (12-5), a team they do not play during the regular season. LaPorte drew Plymouth (2-14) in the Sectional 3 quarterfinals and they'll almost certainly play Mishawaka (8-8) in the semifinals. Penn got a quarterfinal bye and will play Adams (10-7) in the semifinals.

2018 CROWN POINT Bulldogs (17-3)
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 MICHGAN CITY (0-17)
May 4 (cancelled) 4A No. 5 Penn (5-2) 5 p.m.
May 5 (L) 0-1 (10 innings) Hamilton Southeastern (15-5)
May 5 (W) 11-1 (5 innings) Boone Grove (9-6)

May 7 (Tues.) at Kankakee Valley (14-2)
May 8 (Wed.) LaPORTE (13-5)
May 9 (Thurs.) at VALPARAISO (8-5)
May 12 (Sat) at 3A No. 1 New Palestine (16-1) 10 a.m. (CST)
May 12 (Sat) at Carmel (9-10) 2 p.m.
May 14 (Mon) at Highland (11-6)
May 15 (Tues.) MERRILLVILLE (0-15)
May 16 (Wed.) 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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Revised: May 06, 2018.