On paper, the Johnson County Softball Tournament would seem a one-sided affair.
But because outcomes are determined on the field, Center Grove coach Russ Milligan doesn’t see it that way.
Yes, the Trojans are ranked No. 3 in Class 4A. Yes, they have a nine-game winning streak. Yes, they are the defending state champions.
But no, they aren’t counting wins before they’re won.
And that’s why they look forward to the county tournament.
Center Grove’s sole objective is to successfully defend its state championship. And the county, which falls a week before sectionals, is the first and last opportunity to perform under pressure in advance of the postseason.
“It’s the first tournament that we play in that is lose-and-you’re done,’” Milligan said. “You don’t want to be in that position, and so it’s the first time that we’re able to focus on and treat it like a regional or a semistate.”
And it’s a tournament the host Trojans (16-3) want to win.
A state power throughout Milligan’s 25-year career, Center Grove is the defending champion but has learned not to take anything for granted. The Trojans were among the state’s top teams in 2013 and 2014 but yielded the county title to Greenwood.
In light of recent history, and the presence of Greenwood’s senior pitcher and Boston College recruit Megan Overton, the Trojans again expect the Woodmen to be their top challenger.
“They’ve got the best pitcher in the county. That real good pitcher is a big bonus in any win-or-done situation,” Milligan said. “They’re obviously who we expect to see in the championship.”
But to get to the championship, Center Grove and Greenwood have to win in the semifinals. Both have first-round byes and will get the winners of Friday night’s winners Saturday morning.
Center Grove plays the winner of Friday’s first-round game between Indian Creek and Whiteland, and the Woodmen get the winner of Friday’s showdown between Edinburgh and Franklin.
The semifinal winners play for the championship at 12:35 p.m. Saturday.
“Of course you want to win county. It’s bragging rights, but more than that, you just want to use it as preparation for the state tournament,” Milligan said. “It’s a good prep for that, of the mentality for what we have to do. You’ve got to win that first game to get to the second one. Hopefully you can win the second one.
“We seem to be on roll right now. I hope that roll can continue.”
What: Johnson County Softball Touranament
Where: Center Grove High School
Today’s first-round games: 5:30 p.m., Franklin vs. Edinburgh, upper field; Indian Creek vs. Whiteland, lower field
Saturday’s semifinals: 10 a.m., Greenwood vs Franklin/Edinburgh winner, lower field; Center Grove vs. Whiteland/Indian Creek winner, upper field
Saturday’s championship game: 12:30 p.m., upper field
Admission: $5; students grades 6 and younger, free