INDIANAPOLIS | If the Class 4A state championship was the cake, then the mental attitude award was a second layer of icing.
Portage senior Haley Hodges was named the recipient of the honor after the Indians' 2-0 victory over Franklin Central in the finals Saturday at Ben Davis High School.
"It still really hasn't set in," Hodges said. "It's really crazy. Not a lot of people can say they ended their career with what we just did. It feels amazing. (The award) means I get to go up on the hall (of fame wall) with people who have gone on to make a difference.
"It's really special and it's nice recognition for our school, too."
Hodges will continue her playing career at the University of Southern Indiana.
"We're so proud of her," assistant coach and dad Jay Hodges said. "She's done so much. She's worked so hard for four years, doing things in the off-season people don't see. It's difficult to put into words."
Sage words: Portage pitcher Kiley Jones didn't have her aunt Kassey in the stands. The former Indians and Indiana University hurler had her own children's games to attend, but the two maintained correspondence.
"She's been giving me advice, mainly about how to stay calm," Jones said. "We''re very close. She's really been there my whole life. The same with my family."
While Jones has two more years to go, she wanted to send her seven senior teammates out on top.
"The sophomores and freshmen can make it here again," she said. "(The seniors) will never be able to get here again. They've been an incredible help, getting us to this point."
How's it rank?: Portage coach Lisa Hayes is an Indiana softball hall of famer, but never won a sectional at Chesterton nor made it past the conference tournament in college.
"Getting married, having children, getting into the hall of fame, they're all right up there (with this)," Hayes said.
Glove is the answer: Portage junior Alexis Johnson joked earlier in the week about it might be good if she struck out in her first at-bat at state.
In the sectional and semi-state, an early whiff turned into a big, game-altering win. Johnson did strike out against Franklin Central pitcher Gabby Snyder in her first at-bat and did it again in her second plate appearance.
She didn't have a hit. But the third basemen played a monster role in helping Jones win Portage's first state title since 2000.
She fielded all six chances at the hot corner and twice threw a cannon to first to nail a speedy F.C. runner trying to reach base.
“I forgot about it because I knew my team needed me,” said Johnson, with a big smile. “In a 0-0 game it's really nerve-wracking because you know one error could change the game.
“When we won it didn't feel real at the time. It hadn't sunk in until they gave us our medals. That's when I knew it was real.”
Call of champions: Lakewood Park Christian (A), Indianapolis Scecina (2A) and Tri-West Hendricks also captured titles. Lakewood Park Christian made quick work of Tecumseh (21-8), winning 10-3. The Panthers (29-2) scored three runs in the first inning and four in the fifth. Brooke Herendeen and Suzanne Grimm each had two RBIs. Scecina (22-9) beat Adams Central 4-2 behind Alexis Tarver's two-RBI single in the sixth. Megan Whisler and Bridget Connor also had a RBI against the Jets (22-7). Tri-West Hendricks scored five runs in the last three innings to down Yorktown 7-4. Claire Johnson hit a two-run homer in the sixth for the Bruins (25-4). Samme Miller also had two RBIs. Yorktown (25-5) lost despite 13 hits.