With a combined eight state championships, 1A Lutheran and 4A Center Grove chase coveted state titles Saturday at Purdue University in West Lafayette.
No. 9 Lutheran opens the one-day, four-game championships at 10:30 a.m. The 1A Saints (20-7-1) seek their third state title trophy. Coach Kevin Schmidt’s charges reached the season’s most coveted game by defeating Covenant Christian, 4-3, and later dominated West Washington, 7-1, to capture the North Daviess Semistate Saturday.
Lutheran is going for its third state title, having won in 2004 and 2007, in its seventh championship game appearance. They will face the winner of No. 1 Pioneer vs. No. 3 Fremont that was played Monday.
At the 4A Bedford North Lawrence Semistate, No. 3 Center Grove shut out No. 14 Cathedral, 3-0, and downed No. 16 Brownsburg, 6-1, in the nightcap. The Trojans seek their seventh state title against No. 7 Leo (25-1) at 7:30 p.m., while coach Alyssa Coleman aims at her second consecutive title. She coached Speedway to the 2A title last year before replacing coaching icon Russ Milligan, who retired after 26 seasons.
The Trojans own a record six state trophies and will play in their 11th title game.
Lutheran pounded out 25 hits in distinctively different ways at Morristown. In the opener, the Saints had 13 hits but only one, Haley Black’s double, went for extra bases against Covenant Christian. Then they came up with key long drives against West Washington.
The Saints came from behind twice to subdue the Warriors. Covenant Christian held leads of 1-0 and 3-2.
Lutheran scored its two game-winning runs in the seventh on nearly identical singles to leftfield by Miranda Dunn and Rylee Morris that drove in Kayla Dillinger and Kaylee Gregory, respectively. Dunn, in relief of starting pitcher Gregory, pitched a shut out in the final two innings without a hit and walked only one batter.
In the nightcap, Dunn drove in two runs in the first, Dillinger batted in a run in the second, Morris hit a booming triple that scored Gregory and Dunn in the fifth, and Dunn returned to the plate for a double that drove in two runs in the sixth.
Starting pitcher Gregory threw for four innings and Dunn threw the final three stanzas.
“The girls have jelled, and they are really picking up each other,” Saints coach Kevin Schmidt said. “The top part of our batting order has been hitting the ball amazingly, and they are smart when they run the bases.”
Once again, the road to the state finals runs through Center Grove. Teams historically have had to defeat the Trojans to reach the coveted final game. The Trojans are in the state title game for the first time since 2015.
They are led by Miss Softball candidate Abby Herbst who has turned in clutch performances on the mound and at the plate. She threw a no-hitter against Columbus East, 7-0, in a regional game May 28 to reach the semistate round.
All she did Saturday was pitch two complete games, allowing only two hits and getting six strike outs in shutting out Cathedral and giving up six hits and one run against Brownsburg. The University of Wisconsin signee has not given up an earned run in 73 consecutive innings.
Herbst drove in a run against Brownsburg with a double in the third and added a two-run home run in the fifth. Herbst, Alexis Rudd and Lexi Fair each drove in a teammate against Cathedral.
Sectional champion Lutheran’s playoff run ended with a 10-1 loss inflicted by University in the opener of the Morristown Regional. The Saints scored first in the third, but the Trailblazers retaliated quickly with six runs over the next two innings.
Lutheran could muster only three hits and suffered from 15 strikeouts. The Saints finished 10-12. University later won the championship game.
A rain-postponed Southport Sectional championship game between the host Cardinals and Decatur Central turned into a spirited encounter.
The Cardinals scored first on a solo home run by Ryan Lezon in the top of the first inning and on his booming two-run homer in the fifth. The junior infielder’s bat was not enough as the Hawks scored its nine runs in the first three innings to end Southport’s season, 9-3.
Lezon, the third Southport pitcher, allowed only one hit in three and two-thirds innings of relief that grounded the Hawks.
Southport launched threat in the sixth as Nick Lynn reached third and freshman Zach Shepherd reached second with only one out. A strikeout and ground out ended the bid.