Crown Point-Lowell connection unique
in Bulldogs' first state title in 33 years

A USA-365 special report by Mark Smith

6-30-2017

The CP infield including MacKenzie Dunlap (Left) and and Natalie Klingberg (23) celebrate tagging out Avon's Logan Shake (17) overrunning second base in the second inning. (All photos by Mark Smith)
CP's state championship team was a mix of five seniors like MacKenzie Dunlap (left) and seven sophomore like Caitlyn Phillips who blended on a 30-win team.
The Kankakee Valley girl watching to CP-Avon championship game was MacKenzie Adams, who grew up with CP shortstop MacKenzie Dunlap. Adams was 4-for-4 in KV's 13-6 loss to New Palestine in the 3A championship game.
CP sophomores Caitlyn Phillips, Mallory McMahon (middle) and Grace Frazier pose for the cameras on the infield at BenDavis high school. CP started four sophomores and a freshman in the Class 4Ain the state championship game.
It appeared likely that this car in the Ben Davis parking lot had some connection to the family of Crown Point senior catcher Lexi Madrigal. Just a guess.
As time passes and the girls go their separate ways, this team photo with the final score in the background reminds motorists of Crown Point's first state title in the 33rd year of the IHSAA state tournament.
 

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Revised: June 30, 2017.

Team (Record) / Inning 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
AVON (23-9) 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 4 1
CROWN POINT (30-2)  2 0 0 0 0 0 - 2 3 0

Saturday, June 10, 2017 - 87-degrees, windy, 4A State Championship game at Ben Davis high in INDIANAPOLIS, IN
 
WP: Alexis Holloway (22-1) CG, 6 strikeouts, 1 walk
LP: Haylie Foster (12-3) CG, 4K 0 walks

Avon (23-9)
Tiara Edwards (CF) 1-for-3
Kamrie Foster (SS) 0-for-3
Haylie Foster (P) 1-for-2, double, walk
Paige Eichelberger (1B) 1-for-3
Amy Miller (DP) 1-for-1
Grace Woodyard (RF) 0-for-1 sac bunt
Sidney Jones (3B) 0-for-2
Halle Morgan (C) 0-for-2
Sydnee Foster (LF) 0-for-2

CROWN POINT (30-2)
MacKenzie Dunlap (SS) 1-for-3, run scored
Grace Frazier (1B) 1-for-3, run scored
Alexis Holloway (P) 0-for-2
Mallory McMahon (CF) 1-for-2, RBI
Maggie Ballentine (CF) 0-for-2
Zoie Rettig (DH) 0-for-1
Caitlyn Phillips (LF) 0-for-2
Lydia Byrd (RF) 0-for-2
Lexi Madrigal (C) 0 for 2

33rd Indiana State Softball Tournamnet
Lake Central (4A) Sectional
May 25 (W) 5-0 Munster (20-7)
May 27 (W) 3-1 Lake Central (23-8)
Chesterton (4A) Regional
May 30 (W) 5-0 Chesterton (25-7)
Harrison (4A) Semistate
June 3 (W) 2-1 (13 innings) Penn (29-2)
June 3 (W) 3-0 Hamilton Southeastern (19-10)
Class 4A State Championship game
June 10 (W) 2-1 Avon (23-9)

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INDIANAPOLIS (6-10-2017) When you are from Lake County, the mixed blessing of attending the state finals is the 2-1/2 hour drive home, often in the dark and most times, by yourself. You drive faster than you should, flying through the night on I-65. Kinda like Nascar, only with orange construction cones.

I always stop in a gas station in Lebanon or Lafayette or Rensselaer, most times still still wearing the identification badge that the IHSAA gives you when you attend the finals. High school sports are a universal language. I almost always get the same questions from the late night lady behind the counter.

"Do you have kids who play?" she might say.

"No, I don't have any children. Just following the team."

"Did your school win?" she'd say, surely just trying to be polite.

Last Saturday night, I smiled and nodded my head, "Yeah," I said quietly. "My school won."

When people in Crown Point heard that the girls softball team won the state championship with a 2-1 late Saturday victory over defending champion Avon, whether they followed girls softball or not, they probably smiled and said the same thing. It's been a long time.

It's been 32 years since a girls sports team from Crown Point had won a state championship. No CP spring sports team had ever won any state championship. Winning pitcher Alexis Holloway was named the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) mental attitude award winner, the ultimate good citizen, student athlete honor.

For one day, and the long drive home, Crown Point's girls were the kings of the softball world.

This one-run game, played in mid-80s, mid-summer heat at Ben Davis high school, was more anticipation than action.
Avon (23-9) scored with two out in the first inning when the Orioles pitcher and No. 3 hitter lined a 1-2 pitch off the left field fence for a double. The Orioles' clean-up hitter, Paige Eichelberger, then hit the first pitch into left field for a single. The throw from CP left fielder Caitlin Phillips held the runner Foster at third base, but Eichelberger rounded first base to get caught up in a rundown and draw a throw.

While Eichelberger was being tagged, Foster broke for the plate and beat the throw to give Avon a 1-0 lead.

"We blew the first play. That run never should have scored," said CP coach Pete Iussig. "We had a play for that and one of the girls is supposed to yell 'now' at (MacKenzie) Dunlap to tell her the runner at third was breaking for home. But with the crowd noise, she didn't hear them."

Trailing for the first time in the state tournament, CP (30-2) came back quickly. Dunlap, a .425 hitter with 18 extra base hits, bunted for a single to lead off. Second place hitter Grace Frazier, a left-handed slap hitter in most at bats, sliced a single to left to put runners at first and second.

Holloway and Frazier stole second and third on the 1-1 pitch to Holloway, who then grounded out. Sophomore Mallory McMahon then lined a base hit to left. Avon's Sydnee Foster charged the ball with the thought of throwing out Frazier at home, but the ball got past the Avon left fielder. McMahon ended up at second base with two RBIs.

I'm sure there is a reason that McMahon was batting in the fourth spot after hitting fifth in every other post-season game. But Iussig, a 25-year head coaching veteran (at Lowell), insisted there was not.

"I told her it was going to be her day," said Iussig. "I called it. It was just a hunch."

The key to this game after the first inning was CP's defense. Avon girls seemed to cut down on their swings to just make contact against Holloway, who averages 10 strikeouts a game. CP made all the plays, including two big ones in the second and fourth innings.

In the second inning, Avon's Amy Miller slapped a soft single to left field. Grace Woodyard then bunted to Holloway who threw her out at first. CP first baseman Grace Frazier then threw behind the runner Miller, who rounded second base aggressively. The quick throw saw pinch runner Logan Shake tagged out to end that threat.

In the fourth inning, Haylie Foster walked. On a ground ball to shortstop MacKenzie Dunlap, Foster again rounded second as the throw went to first. Frazier again threw behind the runner and caught her off base. That was Avon's last baserunner of the season. Holloway retired the final 10 hitters in a row.

"He (coach Pete Iussig) told us from the beginning that that's how they (Avon) score their runs," said Dunlap. "Stealing bases and getting around the bases. I saw her out of the corner of my eye so I just knew it and threw it."

"We don't win this game without our defense," said Holloway. "We worked on our defense all year and to see it pay off here was awesome."

Mallory McMahon drove in both runs in her first game as Crown Point's clean-up batter.

"I usually bat fifth," Mallory said after the game," but on the bus he said 'I made a little tweak and you're going to bat fourth.' It's odd. The whole time I thought she was going to come down and in. But it was over the middle and I got a good swing at it."

"It felt really good to be able to make a difference."

After that, it was Holloway and the defense holding things down.

"I wasn't nervous," Alexis said about the first inning. Anxious would be a better way of putting it. We waited a long time for the 3A game to end. I would say anxious. But she (Foster) hit a good pitch. It could have been a little higher but I'm picky about things like that. They've got a great lineup."

Holloway always seems very confident. When Amy Miller singled to start the second inning, that was three consecutive hits off a pitcher who had allowed 60 hits in 158 innings all season. She was not shaken by the hits.

"I just kept throwing my pitches where we wanted them. Just kept working on the hitter and we went from there. They have a good batting order. They're in the state championship game for two years in a row for a reason."

Avon fans, dressed in black and gold, out numbered the red-shirted CP fans, but Holloway (22-1) finished strong against a team determined to put the ball in play. Six Avon outs were pop ups, soft line drives or ground balls back to the pitcher.

"Its crazy," said Frazier. It's crazy to think this is the first time this has ever happened at Crown Point. It's great."

When Holloway struck out Amy Miller to end the game, the CP girls rushed the field to celebrate the first state title by a CP girls team since Tom May's Lady Bulldog basketball team won back-to-back titles in 1984 and 1985.

I hope Lowell folks take as much pride in this state title as CP people can.

Crown Point's last two softball coaches (former coach Ginger Keithley got a medal after the win Saturday) have been from Lowell. Iussig is a Hall-of-Famer who was surrounded by long time friends from the south end of the county on the field after the win. When The Bulldogs and Devils open the football season in August, the softball team will certainly be honored and sincere cheers will come from both sides of the field.

Crown Point and Lowell have always been more friends than high school rivals, for a lot of reasons, including intermingling of personnel. But CP's win was unlike anything I had ever seen or heard of at a state championship.

The lady who handed the state finals trophy to Iussig: Patti McCormack, Athletic director at Lowell. Been there more than 25 years.

For decades, Pete Iussig has always been a Lowell guy. Neither school had ever won the state championship in the 33 years of the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) state softball playoffs.

"I'm a Bulldog now," he said in the artificial light at Ben Davis high school. "There's only two guys in Lowell who have lifetime passes for life. Me and Don Bales. So, I'll always be a Red Devil."

"But I'm at Crown Point now. I'm a Red Devil Bulldog."

"You know that means a lot to be state champion. But all my buddies are here. My college buddies. My high school biddies. They're here. Me and Jim Chancellor. We've been together a long time. Gabby (assistant coach and CP grad Gabrielle Raspopovich) is our other assistant. It's like we've been together for years. And the girls all came together. It was perfect."

It was for me. I didn't have to feel bad for Avon, because they'd won the year before. And after years of following the two oldest South Lake County schools, Crown Point's greatest softball moment had a decidedly Lowell flavor. And I made a mistake talking to the lady in the gas station on I-65.

When she asked if 'my school' won I should have said, "Yeah. My schools won."

BULLDOG NOTES: Along with the state title, this is Crown Point's first 30-win season. CP was 29-1 in 2014 and 29-3 in 2015. Crown Point's last eight varsity softball seasons have ended with records of 27-2 (2010), 19-8 (2011), 25-8 (2012), 25-5 (2013), 29-1 (2014), 29-3 (2015), 28-2 (2016) and now 30-2. That's 212 wins and 31 losses.

The overpowering heat that was expected for the 4A title game did not materialize. Temperatures dropped into a pleasant low 80s for most of the game with the help from a 15-20 mph wind.

Long time media director Jason Wille is the uncle of CP junior Lydia Byrd.

Avon (23-9) faced 16 ranked teams in the Orioles' 32-game season. Avon also finished second in Class 4A in 2011.

Avon pitcher Haylie Foster admitted the situation shook her early in the championship game.

"I had the first inning jitters, to be honest," she said after the game. "I was really nervous. It's state. A lot of pressure obviously. Big crowd. Fans everywhere. After the first inning I went to the bullpen and worked on my spins to make sure I hit my spots. I just said 'Whatever happens Happens.' I'm not going to over-think and over-pitch. They always have to remind me to relax."

The Foster sisters played their final game, the ending of their family's run of three state title games in seven years.

"All Fosters have to experience the state finals," she joked. "It's rare and it's cool. They went to state in 2011 and my oldest sister played shortstop. Last year, Kamrie, who was the shortstop tonight, was in left field. And Sydnee, who was in center field tonight, was in left field."

"I'm glad I got to experience all this with them. Without them, I don't think we'd have been here."

Lowell athletic director Patti McCormack, a long time member of the IHSAA board and the new head of the board of directors for next year, didn't really try to be impartial as she gave Iussig his state championship medal. They've known each other over 30 years.

"I told him he should take the job," McCormack said of last year when Iussig was considering replacing one of his former players, former CPHS head coach Ginger Britton (who was at the game Saturday). "I told him I'd be handing him the trophy."

CP may someday again win another state softball title, but it almost certainly won't be like this. In six playoff games, the Lady Bulldogs defeated teams ranked eighth (LC), ninth (Chesterton), and first (Penn) and they then defeated the defending state champion Avon, which was rated 12th. They rode the hard road.

The girl in the Kankakee Valley softball uniform sitting by the fence cheering for Crown Point in the 4A championship game was KV senior MacKenzie Adams, a four year starter for the Kougars, who lost 13-6 to New Palestine in the 3A championship game.

Adams and CP's MacKenzie Dunlap were teammates at KV in 2014 and friends before that. Dunlap's family moved to Crown Point in the summer of 2014.

USA-365.com Broadcast Note: Internet radio USA-365.com wishes to thank all the sponsors who made our live coverage of the "home team call" of the play-by-play of the Crown Point Bulldogs Softball team (30-2) in their 4A state championship game with the Avon Orioles (23-9) on Saturday, June 10. Frank Sprankle called the play-by-play of the Lady Bulldogs throughout their state championship playoff run.

We have posted MP3 audio archives from all our 2017 baseball and softball games broadcast on USA-365.com and Indiana-Sports.com on our website.