A USA-365 special report by Mark Smith
|Team (Record) / Inning||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||R||H||E|
|LAKE CENTRAL (19-1)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||0|
|CROWN POINT (17-2)||1||0||0||1||0||3||-||5||7||1|
|Crown Point's Grace Lucka (10) gets ready to pitch at Crown Point Wednesday against Lake Central. After having never pitched a varsity inning, Grace has won every game she has started her senior year. (All photos by Mark Smith)|
|Crown Point's Anna Holloway grabs this first inning ground ball. Holloway squeezed four grounders in the first five innings to lead the CP defense.|
|Senior first baseman Grace Renschen (19) watches pitcher Amanda Aradema warm up. In 20 games, Renschen has seven home runs and 31 RBIs.|
|Crown Point's Katrina Klingberg models CP's 'bright white' home uniforms before stepping into the batters' box. Klingberg 'modeled' two base hits in a 2-for-3 day against Lake Central.|
|Crown Point's Madi Elish is loud and proud after her first inning home run put the Lady Bulldogs ahead of arch rival Lake Central.|
|Crown Point leadoff batter Audrey Wroble puts the ball in play against Lake Central. CP, which lost 4-2 at Lake Central in April, defeated them 5-0 on May 5.|
|Crown Point second baseman Morgan Scott (20) and right fielder Brinkley Kita share happy thoughts after Kita threw out Lake Central Katie O'Drobinak at second base after a fourth inning single.|
|Lake Central's outfield was a highlight in the LC-CP game including Bree Mitchell (21), Kiley Conner (16) and freshman center fielder Jolie Adams (30).|
|Crown Point junior Audrey Williams (25) watches from the CP dugout. Audrey's team tied Lake Central for the 2021 Duneland Athletic Conference (DAC) title.|
|Crown Point's Madi Elish heads for home happy after her second home run of the day against Lake Central. Elish has six homers in 19 games.|
|Crown Point's Anna Holloway has a big smile for teammate Madi Elish (19) after Elish's second home run of the game last Wednesday (5-5-21) against Lake Central.|
|Crown Point's Grace Lucka is all smiles (and sparkles) near the end of the CP-LC game. Lucka pitched seven innings, allowing two hits and no runs. (All photos by Mark Smith)|
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Revised: May 10, 2021.
Wednesday, May 5, 2021 -
Sunny, windy and 55-degrees in CROWN POINT, IN
Lake Central (19-1)
Jolie Adams (CF) 0-for-3
Katie O’Drobinak (2B) 1-for-3
Sydney Doloszycki (SS) 0-for-2, walk
Grace Renschen (1B) 1-for-3
Kiley Conner (RF) 0-for-3
Mikayla Creasbaum (3B) 0-for-3
Amanda Aradema (P) 0-for-1, walk
Bree Mitchell (LF) 0-for-2
Aubrie Morales (C) 0-for-2
CROWN POINT (17-2)
Audrey Wroble (RF) 1-for-4
Gianna Fantin (C) 0-for-3
Madi Elish (CF) 3-for-3, 3 runs scored, 2 RBIs
Anna Holloway (SS) 1-for-3, RBI
Madi Young (DP) 1-for-3
Brinkley Kita (RF) 0-for-2, run scored
Morgan Scott (2B) 0-for-2, walk
Kaleigh Klingberg (1B) 2-for-3
Emily Phillips (3B) 1-for-2, Sac Bunt, 2 RBIs
WP (starter) Grace Lucka (5-0) CG, 6 K, 2 walks
LP (starter) Amanda Aradema (4-1) CG, 3K, 2 walks
CROWN POINT, IN (05-05-2021) Both coach Jeff Sherman of Lake Central and Angie Richwalski of Crown Point had a strategic choice to make going into Wednesday’s showdown game involving the Class 4A No. 2 Indians and the hometown 4A No. 5 Lady Bulldogs. Both of them probably made the correct decision.
Jeff Sherman held out all-state candidate Peyton Pepkowski (12-0, 100 strikeouts, 3 walks, two earned runs in 61 innings), who had struck out 14 in last month’s 4-2 win over CP and went with his No. 2 pitcher Amanda Aradema. The logic was, I’m guessing, that he didn't want Crown Point to see Pepkowski a second time, knowing that CP and LC are very likely to meet June 1 in the Class 4A regional championship game at Lake Central.
Richwalski chose to pitch undefeated right-hander Grace Lucka over her No. 1 pitcher Madi Elish, who took the loss in the first LC-CP matchup and her hunch worked brilliantly. Lucka, a senior right-hander, pitched a two-hit shutout and Elish, playing centerfield, hit two line drive home runs in Crown Point’s 5-0 win over their arch rival.
The decision means that LC (19-1, 11-1 Duneland Athletic Conference) and CP (16-2, 11-1 DAC) will almost certainly share the league championship. Nobody else in the DAC seriously challenges them. Sherman was correct in his choice because CP still has not hit Pepkowksi, who has allowed three earned runs all year. But Richwalski obviously made the right choice for Wednesday’s victory and she also created a question for CP’s arch rival. Who will LC see in the pitchers’ circle June 1 in the now highly-anticipated winner-take-all regional ‘Game of the Year’?
“People were telling me, pitch your ace. Pitch your ace,” Richwalski explained about the lead up to the second CP-LC showdown.
“Well who is that? My top three pitchers (Elish (6-1, 1.50), Lucka (5-0, 0.28) and undefeated junior Brinkley Kita (3-0, 0.70 ERA, 43 strikeouts in 20 innings) are so close now. Who knows? On any given day, if they get the right umpire and good defense, anyone of the three of them can handle anybody.”
Crown Point took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Elish pulled a line drive home run over the right center field fence. It was 1-0 in the fourth inning when Elish sliced a leadoff double down the left field line and cleanup hitter Anna Holloway lined an 0-2 pitch to left field for an RBI single and a 2-0 CP lead. Lake Central never had more than one runner on base at any time and the Indians never got the leadoff batter on in any inning.
Elish’s second no-doubt-about-it line drive homer began the CP sixth inning and sophomore Emily Phillips iced the game with a two-out, two run single after a single by Madi Young and a walk to junior Brinkley Kita.
Lucka continues to surprise people like me who are not close to the Crown Point team. She was not on the CP varsity roster in 2019 and no one played in 2020. The 5-foot-5 varsity rookie has allowed an unofficial total of two earned runs and 14 hits in 36 innings.
Wednesday, with sparkly, silver ‘Tik Tok’ glitter on her face (apparently a team good luck charm) for the occasion, the senior right-hander retired the first 10 Indians and gave up just two singles (one could have been an error). Grace was emotionless all day facing an undefeated, second-ranked team that had scored 176 runs (9.2) in LC’s first 19 games. On a sun-shiny 50-degree day, only five LC batters hit the ball out of the infield. To see a shy, quiet girl be ‘co-Queen for a Day’ on the biggest day of the season to this point, was something I can't describe.
“It was a really good day,” Grace said softly after the game. “I was throwing my screwball a lot and I don’t know, it worked. They (my teammates) played so well. They were wonderful. Losing (to Chelsea, Michigan in the May 1 Lakeshore Invitational in Stevensville, Michigan) mattered to us. Definitely. We needed to lose a game just to make us work harder. To beat them (LC), we had to play our best game and we did.”
“I thought Grace Lucka did a very good job of keeping our hitters off balance,” said Sherman. “She forced us into some very defensive swings which is not typical of us. We had a good idea she was going to pitch today. We were prepared for her. Kudos to her. She mixed speeds. Mixed locations.”
Sherman was aware that the question of him not pitching Pepkowski would come up. He was also ready for it.
“We had a faith in whoever we put in the circle.” said the LC coach when asked why Pepkowski did not pitch. “That didn’t make the difference in this game today at all.”
The Lady Bulldogs looked as good as they have all year in a game they had pointed to for weeks.
Grace Lucka will probably have to settle for being ‘co-Queen for a Day.’ Elish (6-1, 1.50 ERA) played like the ballpark was too small for her, driving two long line drives over the fence and slicing a double to left. When the game ended, the tall left-handed hitter had 29 hits in 56 (.518) at bats with 14 extra base hits and six homers. On each homer, she rounded the bases pumping her fist in the air and yelling back to the CP dugout. She was intimidating.
“Maybe that’s how I come off, but I’m just really focused,” said Elish. “I didn’t really know I was doing that. I was just so excited. I was just really happy. We didn’t play our best in that third game (in Stevensville, MI) so we wanted to prove that. We know what we can do. We know our capabilities. The conference is one of your goals. If we won the DAC, that’s great, but that’s not our main goal.”
What impressed me the most about Elish was that she had every reason to believe that she would pitch against Lake Central. But when she found out she wasn’t pitching, her response was to smoke out three extra base hits.
“I know Grace is a great pitcher,” Madi said. “It wasn’t like that. I know her. She’s pitched well all season. I knew she would do a really good job and she did.”
“Madi, for most of her carerer I think, has been looked at as only a pitcher,” said coach Richwalski. “And I think she likes the opportunity to show that she’s a complete player. An outfielder and a hitter. A total athlete. But she’s happy to be on the dirt no matter where it is. I think she’s got a level of maturity now that you don’t see in high school players.
“I have been very proud of her all year and obviously I was very proud of her today.”
LC knows that whoever pitches they must get away, get around or get by CP’s top two batters.
“Absolutely. There’s no doubt that Elish and Holloway are the key to their offense. In the past, we’ve handled Holloway (25 of 49, .510, 5 home runs, 17 RBIs) and Elish fairly well,” said Sherman. “Today, we did not. You’ve obviously got to get around the three (Elish) and four (Holloway) hitters in their lineup.”
Both teams played very well on defense. Freshman LC center fielder Jolie Adams roamed far and wide to take base hits away from Crown Point. CP’s second baseman Morgan Scott dived to take a hit away from LC’s Mikayla Creasbaum and right fielder Brinkley Kita threw out LC’s Katie O’Drobinak, who tried to stretch a fourth inning single into a double. CP shortstop Anna Holloway handled four chances at short in the first five innings when the game was close.
DOG NOTES: CP’s Grace Lucka hasn’t given up a lot of hits and walks this year. But, when it happens, she appears to not care.
“We try to teach that,” said coach Angie Richwalski, who played for LC from 2004 to 2006. “I remember them trying to teach me to keep my emotions in check. Don’t show that emotion. Don’t let the other side see that you are upset.”
The crowd at Crown Point was good for a softball game but not as large as it was for the first game at Lake Central in April.
“Our bleachers are a little larger than they look,” coach Angie Richwalksi said. “Also, they let it leak that (all-stater Peyton) Pepkowski wasn’t pitching. Our girls knew it before we got here today. We don’t have many secrets. They all know each other from the summer. They all talk to each other.”
The CP coach wanted to commend an assistant coach who has a history that some of her girls may not know.
“We turned the pitch calling over to coach (Leslie) Malerich,” said Richwalski. “Pat Leslie on the back. As long as they follow her map, they’ll be okay. We may have the most over-qualified staff in the state.”
Leslie Malerich, now a Crown Point police officer, led Merrillville to the 1998 state championship with a 25-4 record and a state record 337 strikeouts. Leslie pitched the state championship game and won 1-0 over top-ranked Carmel before she played at Florida State and in the Olympic games.
Crown Point has invited undefeated Marist (20-0) to come out from Chicago’s south side for a game on Thursday, May 20.
“They’re a private school,” said coach Angie said, “and almost all the team plays together during the summer. They are extremely disciplined batting-wise and in the field. They’ll be tough. Another reality check for us. To see where we are. We lost to Chelsea Saturday (May 1) and then we came back and won here today (against LC). I’ll take that trade every time.”
2021 CROWN POINT (17-2, 10-1 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(19-1)
April 16 (W) 5-1 at Penn
April 17 (W) 2-1 (10 innings) Hamilton Southeastern (5-11)
April 17 (W) 12-2 (6 innings) at (West Lafayette) Harrison (11-6)
April 21 (W) 7-4 at VALPARAISO
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 (18-1)
May 1 (W) 15-1 (5 inn.) Edwardsburg, Mich. (8-7)
May 1 (L) 3-5 Chelsea, Mich. (17-2)
May 4 (W) 5-0 at CHESTERTON
May 5 (W) 5-0 LAKE CENTRAL (19-1)
May 8 (Sa) Boone Grove 9 a.m.
May 8 (Sa) New Prairie - 12 noon
May 10 (Tu) at Kankakee Valley (8-6)
May 11 (Tu) at MICHIGAN CITY
May 12 (We) at LaPORTE
May 13 (Th) (Chicago) Marist (18-0)
May 15 (Sa) Carmel (10-8) (2 games) 10 a.m.
May 18 (Tu) VALPARAISO
May 19 (We) Lowell
CROWN POINT (4A) Sectional
At Crown Point high school = $6 per night, $10 for the entire tournament
May 24 (Mo) Valparaiso vs. Chesterton - 5 p.m.
May 25 (Tu) Hobart vs. Portage - 5 p.m.
May 25 (Tu) Lowell vs. Michigan City - 7 p.m.
May 26 (We) CROWN POINT vs. Valpo or Chesterton - 5 p.m.
May 26 (We) Hobart or Portage vs. MC or Lowell - 7 p.m.
May 28 (Fri.) Sectional 2 championship game - 6 p.m.
The Sectional 2 winner here will be on the road the night of Tuesday, June 1 for the regional championship game at Sectional 1 champ (probably Lake Central).