Roncalli junior Abbey Hofmann knew the pitch she would see when the Royals slugger stepped up to the plate in the sixth inning against determined Decatur Central last week in the County tourney championship game.
Hofmann, a rightfielder, was up against Hawks senior pitcher Kylie Eads, one of the top hurlers in the state.
“I knew my second at-bat (a ground-out RBI) was a strike right down the middle; first pitch strike,” Hofmann recalled. “So I was ready for the pitch; I was looking for it.”
With the Royals holding a slim 2-0 lead, Hofmann slammed Eads’ pitch over the leftfield fence that scored Kate Lehner from third and Lyla Blackwell from second for a comforting 5-0 lead.
Hofmann’s blast coupled with junior pitcher Keagan Rothrock’s one-hitter and 17 strike outs propelled the Royals to their fifth countY title, all under veteran coach Dave Lauck. The reigning 4A state champions had atoned for the missing jewel, the county championship, last season when they were defeated by Franklin Central, 1-0 in the semifinal round.
Hofmann said, “DC is a great team, but we didn’t win county last year, so we really wanted to win this one.”
The Hawks and Eads also earned Lauck’s praise after the Royals were pushed to a seven-inning game for the first time since shutting out Penn, 6-0, at Carmel as Rothrock struck out all 21 batters.
“She (Eads) is a strong pitcher and she kept us off-balance at the plate,” Lauck said. “We struggled to police things together. Any time when Lyla and Cate are on base, we have to get them in.”
The Royals first three hitters put their bats on the ball as shortstop Lauren Marsicek made a diving catch of Jazlynn Stewart’s line drive, Morgan Boswell reached first on a rare Royals infield throwing error, and Laci Boggs popped up to third.
After that, Rothrock struck out 11 straight Hawks before Kylee Hyatt flied out to centerfielder Blackwell in the fifth.
“We definitely knew it would be a tougher game than we had played for a while,” Rothrock said. “They’re definitely a good team, so we knew it wouldn’t be easy.”
The Royals scored in the first when Blackwell scampered home from first on an infield throwing error and on Hofmann’s outfield fly that scored Blackwell from third. Roncalli capped its scoring with Courtney Keller’s solo home run in the sixth.
Hawks coach Don Ivey admitted, “We gave them that run on an error. Earlier in the season, we would have been frustrated, but we buckled down and played pretty well with our pitching and defense.
Ivey continued, “We kept them to a lower score than they’re used to. Our pitching coach (Micaela Strykowski) called a good game, and Eads hit her spots.”
Roncalli capped its scoring with Courtney Keller’s first home run of the season in the sixth.
The IHSAA playoffs begin Monday with Southside teams competing in sectionls at Franklin Central, Plainfield, Mooresville, Chatard and Lutheran. Roncalli is the defending 4A state champions.
At Franklin Central (4A, Sect. 11) - Monday, 5:30 p.m., Southport vs. New Palestine; 7:30 p.m., Warren Central vs. Roncalli. Tuesday, 5:30 p.m., Perry Meridian vs. G1 winner; Franklin Central vs. G2 winner. Wednesday, 7 p.m., championship.
At Plainfield (4A, Sect. 12) - Monday, 6 p.m., TH North at Plainfield; 8 p.m., Avon vs. TH North. Tuesday, 6 p.m., Brownsburg vs. G1 winner; 8 p.m., Decatur Central vs. G2 winner. Wednesday, 7 p.m., championship.
At Mooresville (4A, Sect. 13) - Monday, 6 p.m., Mooresville vs. Center Grove; 7:30 p.m., Franklin vs. Greenwood. Tuesday, 6 p.m., Martinsville vs. G1 winner; 7:30 p.m., Whiteland vs. G2 winner. Wednesday, 7 p.m., championship.
At Bishop Chatard (3A, Sect. 27) - Monday, 5 p.m., Chatard vs. Beech Grove; Tuesday, 5 p.m., Cathedral vs. Herron; Wednesday, 5 p.m., Christel House Manual vs. G1 winner; Thursday, 5 p.m., championship.
At Lutheran (1A, Sect. 59) - Monday, 5:30 p.m., Lutheran vs. Edinburg; Tuesday, 5:30 p.m., Greenwood Christian vs. Morristown; Wednesday, Waldron vs. G1 winner; Thursday, 5:30 p.m., championship.
Admission: $6 per person.
Sectional winners advance to regionals Tuesday, May 31.