INDIANAPOLIS – The Leo softball team had only one senior, but it’s wasn’t lacking maturity Saturday as it won the Class 3A state championship with a 2-0 victory over Gibson Southern at Ben Davis.
The Lions worked their way out of several jams against the more experienced Titans and rode a sterling effort from junior pitcher Lindsey Bowers to their first state title.
This is absolutely amazing, coach Ben Shappell said. To see these girls come together like this, after not having the best finish to our regular season, losing four out of five games there, I’m in awe. To come together like they did and play as a family like they did, it’s amazing. We didn’t have one person who stood out as far as hitting the ball hard.
We scraped and clawed to get those runs. It was a total team effort and I’m really proud of the way they played today.
Bowers (20-6) carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning.
She gave up up four hits, struck out five and didn’t issue a walk for the Lions (27-6).
I can’t even explain this, Bowers said. At the beginning of this game, we made some errors. But once we loosened out of that, it really came together for us.
Junior Morgan Poeppel, sophomore Robyn Hall, junior Hannah Risser and freshman Abbie Heischman each had hits for the Lions, who outscored opponents 11-0 in the final three games.
When we won sectionals, that was a big thing for us because we beat Bishop Dwenger (2-1) and had lost to them in the regular season pretty bad (12-10), Risser said. Once we won sectionals, it went up the hill from there.
The seventh-ranked Lions took the lead in the top of the first, after a shaky start by senior pitcher Bree Wilzbacher and even shakier fielding by the Titans (29-4). A double steal resulted in Leo’s Alexa Allen scoring because sophomore catcher Taylor Rogers dropped the ball after a throw from sophomore shortstop Lora Barton.
I knew that was a really big play, but we did get really lucky on that, Bowers said.
Shappell didn’t think the run would prove so monumental against a Titans team that had won 17 straight, had five seniors and was making its sixth state finals appearance.
I didn’t, especially when they got their first two runners on in the bottom of the first inning, he said. As well as our defense played to make up for any mistakes, I’m very proud of the way they kept their heads in the game. They continued to encourage each other and it’s just stuff we’ve been preaching to them all year, and it paid off today. Nobody got their head down when they made a mistake.
Gibson Southern pulled Wilzbacher (9-1) in the second after she allowed one run on one hit with two walks.
Her replacement, freshman Jaime Nurrenbern, went six innings and allowed one run on three hits with four strikeouts.
Fourth-ranked Gibson Southern’s biggest late-game threats came in the fifth, when Bowers forced a pair of popouts to strand a runner at second, and in the sixth, when the bases were loaded and sophomore second baseman Madeline MacDonald’s diving grab of a line drive from senior Ellen Harder keyed a defensive stand.
I have so much confidence in (Bowers). She always hits her spots and if she gets down in the count, she just goes back up. You just have to be there for her and keep her up, said Risser, whose sacrifice fly to left field scored freshman Makayla Hissong for a 2-0 lead in the sixth.