Softball: One hit is enough for Portage to win state title
By Steve T. Gorches 314-3797 or firstname.lastname@example.org June 8, 2013 11:40PM
Portage's Haley Hodges (19) celebrates with teamates as they hold the IHSAA Championship trophy after defeating Franklin Central 2-1 during the 4A Softball State Finals game held at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis on Saturday June 8, 2013. | Charles Mitchell~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 10, 2013 6:58AM
INDIANAPOLIS — After a 13-year absence from the softball state championship game, Portage only managed one hit in Saturday’s Class 4A final against Franklin Central.
One stinking hit.
Sounds disappointing, right?
Not when that one hit came off the bat of outfielder Lauren Murray.
Seven days earlier, Murray had a game-winning double in the ninth inning to lead the Indians to Saturday’s location at Ben Davis High School.
She did it again, this time coming in the bottom of the fourth inning and two outs. Murray laced a deep fly ball to left-center field that barely eluded the glove of Franklin outfielder Morgan Hutcheson. The timely hit drove in courtesy runners Abby Alexander and Krystle Allison — on base in place of Haley Hodges and Kiley Jones — to give Portage the only runs they needed in a 2-0 victory.
It’s the first state title for the Indians (25-6) since 2000 and the second state title for Portage in less than three months. The gymnastics team brought home its first state title since 1975 back in March.
“It’s girl power,” said strength and conditioning coach Dan Clark.
It also provides the perfect finish to the careers of seven seniors, one of which is Murray.
“I wasn’t trying to be a hero or get the game-winning hit or a bomb,” Murray humbly said. “I was just trying to get on base.”
But for the second straight game, she did hit a bomb that turned into a run-scoring double in the perfect spot. She did get the game-winning hit despite only hitting .283 — modest by high school softball standards — coming into the contest.
And she was a hero for Portage.
“I don’t care if she was 0-for-100, she came through for us tonight and that’s all that matters,” Portage coach Lisa Hayes said. “I’m just overwhelmed.”
At the beginning of the season, getting the game-winning hit in her last two games was the furthest from Murray’s mind. She was recovering from knee surgery in January, and it was going slower than expected. Now she’s a state champion.
“This is the greatest feeling in the world,” Murray exclaimed.
The game was another perfect example of the “believe” motto that has been a theme for the Indians for several weeks. Only one hit and some ugly strikeouts against Franklin (21-6) pitcher Gabby Snyder, who fanned 10 in the contest — two in each of the first five innings.
If you don’t believe in superstition, don’t talk to any Portage softball players, coaches or fans, because they definitely believe after the last two weekends.
“It’s just indescribable to think I helped a team of seven seniors do something they’ll never get the chance to do again,” Jones said. “It’s just awesome.”