Senior staff writer
Center Grove captured its 4A softball sectional with a never-say-die attitude.
The 4A No. 3 Trojans came from behind in all three games to defeat rival Greenwood 4-1, No. 11 Franklin Central 3-2 with a two-out, two-strike rally in the seventh and No. 10 New Palestine 8-7 in the title game with an improbable game-winning four-run ninth after the Dragons had scored three runs to snap a 4-4 deadlock.
Junior second baseman Mandy Dallas slammed the bases-loaded, game-winning hit between the legs of Dragons relief pitcher Kaylin McMurray to score Mallory Baker and Jordyn Rudd.
Dallas, a defensive specialist, had been hitless in her previous four trips to the plate. “I knew I had to do it for the team,” she said. “All we needed was a base hit. It wasn’t my favorite pitch, but with two strikes I knew I had to make contact.”
“This is a team that refuses to lose,” Trojans coach Russ Milligan said. “She (Dallas) finally shortened up and punched the ball up the middle. Every kid who might have done something bad in this game had the opportunity to redeem themselves.”
The Trojans (25-2) picked up 13 hits against New Palestine (24-4), which made three uncharacteristic errors in the May 27 title game, including the fateful ninth. CG senior Brandi Heath hit a hard grounder to the shortstop with no outs and the bases loaded, but the shortstop missed the tag on Baker and then dropped the ball.
Center Grove fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first and 4-1 in the fifth. The Trojans scored twice in the sixth and tied it in the seventh with one run before the Trojans’ rallied again in the bottom of the ninth.
Center Grove, a five-time state champion, has won 20 sectional titles, but this is its first since 2010.
No. 12 Roncalli and 1A No. 13 Lutheran also won championships; the Rebels pounced on Cathedral 7-1 May 29 at Warren Central, and Lutheran dominated Indiana Deaf 11-0 May 28 to capture its sectional.
Roncalli (25-8) garnered its 16th sectional championship, its sixth in the past seven seasons, by snapping a 1-1 tie with six runs in the bottom of the sixth.
The Rebels, winners of three state championships, capped their game-winning rally with a three-run triple by freshman Lauren Fey. Junior Brittany Fahringer scored the go-ahead run earlier, and senior Megan Choinacky drove in a run.
Freshman pitcher Jordan Jenkins went the distance and is 17-3.
“This team began to figure things out in late April in terms of our line-up and our defense,” said coach David Lauck. “As a result, we’ve played really good softball over the last month.”
Lutheran, a two-time state champion, claimed its 18th sectional title in a dominating fashion by rolling over three foes by a combined 35-1 count, which included 36 hits.
Junior pitcher Blakelee Steeb picked up all three wins by allowing no runs in 19 innings. She threw a no-hitter for five innings in the Saints’ 10-1 semifinal win over Bethesda Christian.
Sophomore Kimmie Kuehr was among the big hitters for the Saints in sectional action with eight hits in 12 at-bats and 12 RBIs. In the championship game, freshman Haley Sylvester drove in two runs, and senior Morgan Keefer was 3-for-3.
In the Southport Sectional, Perry Meridian shut out Northwest and Ben Davis before falling to Marion County tourney runner-up Decatur Central 4-1 in the championship game.
The sectional champs advanced to regional competition Tuesday, but results were unavailable at press time.
Center Grove played at Bloomington South, with the winner meeting Decatur Central or Plainfield in the Bedford North Lawrence Semistate Saturday at 11 a.m. No. 8 Greenfield visited Roncalli, with the winner also going to BNL to face the Floyd Central-Castle winner at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Bloomfield was at Lutheran, and the winner plays in the North Daviess Semistate at 11 a.m. Saturday.