The Center Grove High School softball team’s run to the Class 4A state title championship game has been highlighted by series of clutch contributions from a variety of players.
“That’s the third time in six games we’ve come from behind to win in the tournament,” Center Grove coach Russ Milligan said. “It’s a team that refuses to lose.
“Every time it’s been someone different that has stepped up and been a hero.”
Center Grove had a few heroes in Saturday’s Class 4A semistate championship game at Bedford North Lawrence High School, none bigger than junior second baseman Mandy Dallas, whose home run in the top of the seventh broke a 6-all tie and gave the Trojans a 7-6 victory over Floyd Central.
The No. 3 Trojans (28-2) will meet No. 5 Lake Central (28-6-1) in the Class 4A state title game at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Ben Davis High School.
Dallas’ shot popped off the left fielder’s glove and over the fence. Dallas was rounding second before she realized it was a homer.
“We want to keep playing. We don’t want to give up yet,” said Dallas, who delivered three hits. “We just want to try get back to where we used to be where we can win something.”
The Trojans captured their first sectional title since 2010 this season. In 2009, Center Grove won its fifth state championship, fourth under Milligan.
“This is special because we’ve done something special in every decade that I’ve been around,” Milligan said.
Junior Taylor Hammill said good chemistry mixed with intensity have made the difference this season.
“We’re all focused,” Hammill said. “We’re all in it together.”
Hammill, who pitched for the first time since the sectional began, came in to throw the final two innings and got the victory.
“I wasn’t nervous at all. I just needed to do my job and get ground balls,” Hammill said. “That’s all I needed to do.”
When Hammill came in, freshman Jordyn Rudd had to move from right field to catcher to keep her bat in the lineup. She had only caught one inning all year.
“Taylor pitched wonderfully, Jordyn catches wonderfully and Mandy puts one over the fence,” Milligan.
Milligan has been impressed how his team has put aside any distractions such as graduation and further players.
“Four of the five girls are going to play college ball, so they could be looking ahead,” Milligan said. “The other girls have their travel coach saying, ‘When are you going to be here?’
“They had to want to be here and want to be in this moment.”
Senior third baseman Victoria Boyer certainly does. Boyer’s two-run double gave Center Grove a 6-5 lead in the fifth. The Highlanders (28-7-1) tied in with one run in the bottom of the fifth.
“I think we have this mentality where it’s the next girl up,” Boyer said. “We have such a great team chemistry that we can rely on everyone. You never know who is going to get that big hit and everyone is capable of it.
“We just have the confidence that we know what we can do.”
Senior first baseman Mallory Baker, who is headed to Purdue to play next season, added a two-run homer in the second inning for the Trojans.
Center Grove advanced to the final by beating Decatur Central 2-0 in the semistate semifinal earlier Saturday.
What: IHSAA Class 4A State Softball Final
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Ben Davis High School
Teams: Center Grove (28-2) vs. Lake Central (28-6-1)