Lake Central holds off Lady Bulldogs to win Regional Title game 3-1

A USA-365 special report by Mark Smith

Team (Record) / Inning 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
CROWN POINT (28-4) 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 4 0
LAKE CENTRAL (29-1) 0 0 0 0 2 1 - 3 8 2
In all 25 years of covering Northwest Indiana high school sports, I have never seen a local softball game that was sold out. But both CP-LC games at Lake Central were sold out this season. (All photos by Mark Smith)
Lake Central's Peyton Pepkowski (25) gets ready to go against Crown Point. Pepkowski was the MVP of the Duneland Athletic Conference.
Crown Point coach Angie Richwalski (right) and pitching coach Leslie Malerich (left) are at the front of the dugout watching Lake Central's Jolie Adams lead off for the Indians.
The Lake Central dugout watches CP junior Brinkley Kita make contact early in the regional championship game.
Crown Point shortstop Anna Holloway scoops up a ground ball in the first inning. Holloway grabbed four ground balls and a line drive in the regional title game against LC.
CP senior Grace Lucka gets set to go against Lake Central. Lucka struck out seven, giving up three runs in six innings.
LC's Jolie Adams gets ready to run after a first inning single as CP's Kaleigh Klingberg stands guard.
CP's Emily Phillips scores the Bulldogs only run in the sixth inning. Phillips doubled and scored on a single by Madi Elish.
CP's Anna Holloway and Emily Phillips head for the dugout after Phillips scored in the sixth-inning. CP had the tying runs on base in the sixth and seventh.
Lake Central's Mikayla Cresbaum (23) is all smiles after her sixth-inning home run upped the LC lead to 3-1.
The LC bench welcomes Mikayla Creasbaum (23) after her third home run of the season. Lake Central won two out of three games from Crown Point this season.
Lake Central celebrates the schools first regional championship since 2018. Either LC or CP has won the regional title every year softball has been played since 2017. 
(All photos by Mark Smith)
Copyright © 2021 and Meyer Multimedia Services, a division of Meyer Broadcasting Corp.  All rights reserved.
Revised: July 25, 2021.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021 - Sunny and 72-degrees, 4A Regional Championship in ST. JOHN, IN

Audrey Wroble (LF) 0-for-3
Madi Elish (CF-P) 0-for-3, RBI
Anna Holloway (SS) 1-for-3
Madi Young (DP) 1-for-3
Gianna Fantin (C) 0-for-2, HBP
Brinkley Kita (RF) 1-for-3
Kaleigh Klingberg (1B) 0-for-3
Morgan Scott (2B) 0-for-2
Emily Phillips (3B) 1-for-2, double, run scored

Lake Central (29-1)
Jolie Adams (CF) 2-for-3, double, RBI, run scored
Amanda Aardema (DP) 1-for-1, sac bunt
Sydney Doloszycki (SS) 1-for-3, double, RBI
Grace Renachen (1B) 0-for-2, walk
Katie O’Drobinak (2B) 0-for-3
Mikayla Creasbaum (3B) 1-for-3, HR, RBI
Kiley Conner (RF) 1-for-3
Peyton Pepkowksi (P) 0-for-3
Bree Mitchell (LF) 1-for-3, triple, run scored.

WP (LC) Peyton Pepkowski (20-0) CG, 10 K, 0 walks
LP (CP) Grace Lucka (7-2) 7K, 1 walk (5 innings)

ST. JOHN, IN (06-01-2021) It was a showdown. Winner take all. And the undefeated pitcher stayed undefeated.

It would be easy to over analyze the third meeting between Class 4A No. 3 Lake Central and Class 4A No. 4 Crown Point. Lake Central had defeated Crown Point 4-2 in April. LC coach Jeff Sherman did not pitch his No. 1 pitcher Peyton Pepkowski in May when CP won a Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) rematch 5-0. CP also did not pitch their No. 1 right-hander, Madi Elish, starting Grace Lucka on the 5-0 a game where Lucka pitched her best game of the year, allowing just two singles and two walks in seven innings.

But it can go down to a nine-place hitter to move the needle towards a decision.

The season came down to the final three innings of the third meeting between Northwest Indiana’s top two teams. In a scoreless tie in front of over 500 fans, Lake Central’s ninth place hitter Bree Mitchell, who came into the game batting .328 (21 of 64), pulled deep drive into the left field corner that just escaped the glove of CP leftfield Audrey Wroble. The Indian’s all-area leadoff batter freshman Jolie Adams then smacked a double to left center against CP right-hander Grace Lucka (7-2), who had shout out LC for 11 consecutive innings including a 5-0 win at CP in May.

After a sacrifice bunt by Lake Central Amanda Aardema, LC junior shortstop Sydney Doloszycki lined an RBI double into right field to give her side a 2-0 lead.

In the sixth inning, CP’s ninth place hitter Emily Phillips lined a double into the left field corner against undefeated LC right-hander Peyton Pepkowksi (20-0). One out later, CP star Madi Elish sliced an RBI single to left to cut the lead to 2-1. Then in a key play, LC catcher Jordan August threw out Elish trying to steal second. Pepkowski got Anna Holloway to fly out to left to end that scoring threat.

LC senior Mikayla Creasbaum hit a long home run to center field against Lucka to lead off the sixth inning for a 3-1 LC lead, but the game wasn’t over. In the seventh, CP’s Gianna Fantin was hit on the arm (or so it was ruled) by a Pepkowski pitch. Brinkley Kita reached first base on an error and CP had the tying runs on base.

Pepkowski, the MVP of the Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) then struck out Kaleigh Klingberg and Morgan Scott to end the game and push LC to the semistate.

“She never gets rattled,” said LC coach Jeff Sherman of his senior pitcher. “She came on strong at the end. Lucka did a good job against us again, but I thought we'd break through eventually. We’ve got too many good hitters throughout the order. I wasn't surprised that Bree came through.”

Pepkowski, who struck out 10 and walked none, was confident all afternoon in front of a sellout crowd of blue colored LC fans and red wearing CP supporters.

“I feel great,” she said. “Once we got the lead, I knew we’d win. They (CP) have a great team and we all know each other. We knew it would come down to this and I’m just so proud of our team.”

Pepkowski, a life long pitcher (“I’ve been pitching since I was eight years old,” Peyton said), wanted to get the ball in the biggest game of the season. “I was looking forward to it. Every team is better in the post-season. We knew it would be close and it was. I think everyone wants to play in a game like this.”

Crown Point rookie coach Angie Richwalski thought the decision to start Lucka, who had previously shut out LC, instead of Madi Elish (13-1, 1.32 ERA) who had pitched in CP’s 4-2 loss at LC in April, didn't decide the game.

“I thought Grace did a good job,” said Richwalski. “We just didn't score. Eventually in a tight game like this, someone bust it up and they did.”

CP had nine seniors on the roster and seven in the starting lineup at LC. The loss ends the time of this version of the Crown Point Bulldogs.

“This is a group that is a Crown Point legacy,” said Richwalski. “There’s five seniors who had older sisters play for Crown Point and five or six have younger sisters who will play. This hurts.”

DOG NOTES: Lake Central (31-2) advanced to the state championship game where they lost 4-1 to Roncalli (31-2) and All-America pitcher Keagan Rothrock (24-2, 364 strikeouts in 160 1/3 innings). LC graduates top pitcher Peyton Pepkowski, but only three other seniors.

Anna Holloway and Madi Elish were both selected as 2021 Class 3A and 4A all-staters by the Indiana Coaches Girls Softball Association (IGSCA). CP senior Grace Lucka was voted second team all-state.

Anna Holloway finished her senior season batting exactly .500 with 46 base hits in 92 at-bats. Anna had six home runs, 35 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 14 attempts. Elish batted .475 (47 of 99) with 13 doubles, seven home runs and 34 RBIs. As a pitcher, Madi was 13-1 with a 1.31 ERA and 108 strikeouts (16 walks) in 85 2/3 innings.

In her first and only season on the varsity Grace Lucka was 7-2 with a 1.46 ERA with 96 strikeouts and 25 walks. Grace also batted .293 (12 of 41) with two homers and 10 RBIs.

An update on CP opponents. Up in Stevensville, Michigan, Lakeshore, who lost 3-1 to Crown Point last month, ended the regular season with a record of 38-2 after a 6-1 upset loss to Edwardsburg (27-10), a team Crown Point defeated 11-1. Edwardsburg then lost to Wayland in the state quarterfinals. Chelsea, Michigan (37-5), which beat CP 5-3, advanced to the Final-4 before losing a state semifinal game to Marysville (31-6) in the Division II (equivalent of Indiana’s Class 3A) by a 7-1 score.

Chicago’s Marist RedHawks (38-1) defeated Huntley 1-0 and Lincoln-Way 3-1 to win the Class 4A state championship.
Senior pitcher Abby Dunning, who beat CP 7-2, pitched a no-hitter against Huntley, striking out 13. Dunning threw 136 pitches against Lincoln-Way allowing just three base hits and three walks while striking out eight. Marist set a school record for wins and won its third state softball championship, winning in 2012 and 2015. Dunning (26-1, 0.25 ERA, 338 strikeouts in 163 innings), who threw a school record seven no-hitters, was named the Illinois state player of the year.

Marist’s only loss in 2021 was 2-1 to Lake Central (31-2). Illinois and Michigan athletic associations allow softball and baseball seasons to play regular season contests through the end of May so those teams get to play more games than Indiana schools do.

Lake Central’s Peyton Pepkowski (22-1, 0.45 ERA, 224 strikeouts in 139 innings) was named the 2021 Indiana state player of the year after the finals of the state tournament.

Pepkowski, who was 9-2 as a sophomore (there was no softball in 2020) pitched 13 shutouts and two no-hitters in 2021.

LC’s Jeff Sherman was named the Indians 2021 state coach of the year. Not counting 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic prohibited any spring sports, Lake Central has won at least 20 games in each of the last 32 softball seasons.

2021 CROWN POINT (28-4, 13-1 DAC)
Coach Angie Richwalski (1st year)
29-5 in 2019, 25-6 in 2018, 30-2 in 2017, 28-2 in 2016, 29-3 in 2015, 29-1 in 2014
Duneland Athletic Conference games in CAPS
All games begin at 4:30 p.m. CDT unless otherwise indicated

April 3 (W) 6-0 at Andrean
April 6 (W) 13-0 (5 inn.) MICHIGAN CITY
April 7 (W) 5-2 PORTAGE
April 8 (W) 3-2 Munster
April 13 (W) 9-1 at CHESTERTON
April 14 (L) 2-4 at LAKE CENTRAL (25-1)
April 16 (W) 5-1 at Penn
April 17 (W) 2-1 (10 inn.) Hamilton Southeastern (9-12)
April 17 (W) 12-2 (6 inn.) at (West Lafayette) Harrison (16-7)
April 21 (W) 7-4 at VALPARAISO (16-8)
April 22 (W) 6-0 LaPORTE
April 23 (W) 15-1 (5 inn.) MICHIGAN CITY
April 22 (Th) at Hanover Central (cancelled)
April 27 (W) 21-0 (5 inn.) at MERRILLVILLE
April 28 (W) 13-0 (5 inn.) at PORTAGE

Lakeshore Invitational at Stevensville, (Michigan) times are not certain
May 1 (W) 3-1 (Stevensville, Michigan) Lakeshore (38-2)
May 1 (W) 15-1 (5 inn.) Edwardsburg, Mich. (29-10)
May 1 (L) 3-5 Chelsea, Mich. (34-3)

May 4 (W) 5-0 at CHESTERTON
May 5 (W) 5-0 LAKE CENTRAL (31-2)
May 8 (W) 6-2 Boone Grove (16-8-1)
May 8 (W) 16-9 (5 inn.) New Prairie
May 10 (W) 3-0 at Kankakee Valley (13-9)
May 12 (W) 11-7 at LaPORTE
May 13 (L) 2-7 (Chicago) Marist (30-1)
May 15 (W) 4-0 Carmel (13-12)
May 15 (W) 11-1 (5 innings) Carmel (13-12)
May 17 (W) 8-0 at MICHIGAN CITY
May 18 (W) 8-4 VALPARAISO (16-8)
May 19 (W) 8-0 Lowell

CROWN POINT (4A) Sectional
At Crown Point High School

May 24 (Mon.) Valparaiso 15, Chesterton 2
May 25 (Tues.) Hobart 4, Portage 1
May 25 (Tues) Lowell 9, Michigan City 0.
May 26 - CROWN POINT 5, Valparaiso 3
May 26 (W) Lowell 6, Hobart 2
May 29 (Sat) CROWN POINT 11, Lowell 1 (5 inn.)

At Lake Central High School, June 1

June 1 - 4A No. 3 LC 3, No. 4 CROWN POINT 1

(West Lafayette) Harrison (4A) Semi-state
At Harrison high school, West Lafayette, June 5

June 5 – Lake Central 1, Columbia City 0
June 5 – Northridge 8, Penn 0
Jun e 5 – Lake Central 8, Northridge 1

Class 4A State Championship
At Center Grove High School

June 12 – No. 1 (Indianapolis) Roncalli 4, No. 3 Lake Central 1 (title)