Ladybirds to face Pioneer for Class A state title
For the second time in the past four seasons, North Central will have a chance to play for a softball state title.
In 2015, the Ladybirds captured the Class 2A state championship.
This time playing in Class A, the No. 8 Ladybirds (23-6) will take on No. 3 Pioneer (31-3) in the championship game at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Purdue University’s Bittinger Stadium.
“We expect to be challenged at this level,” said coach Erica Arnold, who has a 173-52 record in her eight seasons in charge of North Central. “Pioneer looks to be a good team but this is what we have prepared for all season.
“We purposely schedule tough teams so we are ready to battle during the postseason.”
The Panthers, located in Royal Center, are playing in their fourth softball state finals, but first since 2005. Their football team was Class A state champs last fall.
They are coached by Gabrielle Thomas, who is in her first season in charge of Pioneer.
The Panthers returned nine starters from last year’s sectional championship team while North Central has seven starters returning from a 19-8 team in 2017.
At the Frankfort Semi-state on June 2, Pioneer defeated No. 9 Fremont 3-1 and No. 5 Frontier 6-3. North Central beat No. 7 Hauser 2-1 in the semifinals of the North Daviess Semi-state before defeating Lanesville 10-0 in the title game.
Pioneer freshman pitcher Hailey Gotshall leads the state with 29 wins and 272 strikeouts. She also is among the state’s leaders batting .613, hitting out of the No. 3 hole.
Mikenna Landis (.531) plays center field for the Panthers and bats first.
Shortstop Alexis Robinson (.538) hits second while Alyssa Shaw (.484) bats fourth and plays first base.
Bailey Zarse (.494) plays third base and bats fifth with second baseman Haley Gleitz (.450) hitting sixth.
Catcher Mackenzie Walker (.431) bats seventh, Kenadee Kline (.293) is the designated player batting eighth, Madison Blickenstaff (.450) hits ninth and plays center field and Cassidy Morris plays right field and is the flex player.
Robinson and Gotshall each have scored 56 runs, tied for third in the state.
Robinson paces the Panthers, who have won 19 sectional championships, with 56 RBIs and Gotshall has 49.
As a team, Pioneer bats .474 with 46 home runs. Robinson leads with 15 home runs, Gleitz has eight, Shaw with seven and Gotshall has six.
They also have speed, having stolen 101 bases. Kline leads with 45 in 48 attempts.
North Central, winners of 10 sectionals and five regionals, also made the state finals in 2006.
The Ladybirds, who bat .384 with 18 home runs and 58 stolen bases, have used the same lineup throughout the tournament.
Madison Schofield (.427 and eight home runs) will lead off and play shortstop, freshman Brooklin Klitzing (.390) will hit second and play left field, senior catcher Hannah Shroyer (.450 with 35 RBIs) bats third, first baseman Morgan Manning (.472, three home runs and 38 RBIs) bats fourth, center fielder Kaelee Moody (.466 with 29 RBIs) bats fifth, freshman third baseman Jocelyn Cox (.307 with four home runs) hits sixth, Hannah Simmons (.316 with 16 RBIs) bats seventh and plays right field, designated player Hailey Salyer (.323) hits eighth, pitcher Erika Shroyer (.308 and 21 RBIs) bats ninth and flex player, senior Marissa Miller, plays second base.
Erika Shroyer has a 22-6 record with a 1.92 ERA. She only allowed one run in 12 innings of work in two wins at the semi-state.
“The girls have worked hard all season long,” said Arnold. “They are determined to win and they expect the best of themselves.
“They are truly the epitome of a team. They know to be successful they have to play their best together.”
Hannah Shroyer and Miller, who played shortstop three years ago, are the only players who played on the 2015 state title team.
“It’s almost like a dream, having another chance to play for a state championship,” said Miller.
Hannah said it means so much more to be able to share it with her sister Erika and her best friend Marissa.
“My sister’s a sophomore on this team and I know she went through it with me (back in 2015) and I know she watched me go through all that glory,” said Hannah. “I am so proud of Erika. She got everybody off guard and did what she did best (at the semi-state).
“I’m just happy to share it with her and Marissa.”
Arnold said it’s been nice having seniors who have played on this stage before.
“They have been helping the girls mentally prepare for what they will see at the state game,” Arnold said of Erika and Marissa. “Our motto this year has been ‘Breathe, Believe, Battle.’
“I’ve been reminding the girls of this during our entire postseason run. As long as they continue to play composed and confident, I really believe we will come home with a state championship.”
Tickets for the state finals are $10.
Bittinger Stadium is located at 1324 McCormick Road, West Lafayette. Due to road closures/construction on McCormick Road south of the athletic complex, all attendees should plan to arrive using Cherry Lane from the east or McCormick Road from the north.