Westville isn't exactly synonymous with athletic success.
For years, the only two things that the name brought to my mind were Coulter's Farm, which I visit annually for pumpkins before Halloween, and the correctional facility, which I have never visited.
But the recent success of the softball and baseball teams is helping change the reputation of the Class A school on the western edge of LaPorte County.
"We're putting Westville on the map, letting people know that our program is building," Blackhawks senior catcher Louie Grounds said. "Our class is setting the tone, not just the baseball program, but all the programs, for the younger classes."
When Westville put together a winning season in 2006, it was the baseball team's first finish over .500 since 1963, the year this old baller was born. Kevin McMahon's in his seventh spring as coach and he's only had two losing records. At 8-1-1, the Blackhawks are well on their way to breaking the school record of 16 wins.
"Coaches are coming up and saying baseball in our area has changed. They're very complimentary," McMahon said. "These kids are that good because of the way they've been coached. They've been working toward this for a long time and they're not taking it for granted. Lou's been bringing these kids up since they could walk. They were always taught, this is for the future, for Blackhawk baseball."
Lou is Grounds' father, who has coached several of the boys -- Louie, Danny Kurth, DJ Warren and Hip Pacheco -- since they were 5. The group started out in a local league before moving up to travel ball in junior high.
"That opened their eyes to what real baseball was," Lou Grounds said. "No matter what happens, it's been a treat being a part of it, watching them grow up. It's a lot more than just baseball that they're all learning."
Washington Twp. handed Westville its first loss Thursday. If that 13-1 drubbing doesn't keep the Blackhawks hungry and humble, coach Grounds will.
"His famous line is, 'If yesterday's compliments still look good today, then you haven't done much today,'" the younger Grounds said. "We can't be making April our high point. Coach (McMahon) has been telling us he doesn't want to see our best now. Sectional time, that's when it needs to be perfect. I have no doubt we'll do that."
Westville has never won a sectional baseball title. The softball team captured its first last season, one more incentive for the boys to claim their own.
"We've got a great team that can do something pretty special," senior Jesse Mills said. "Everybody knew we could do this. I don't want to say it was unexpected. That would be unfair. We know we can do a lot more. We're ready to."
Needless to say, it would be the perfect finish for the senior class, and the foundation for the future.
"The kids underneath us, they have all the power in the world to one-up us," Grounds said. "We don't have the option to recruit. We don't have a huge pool to pick from. We don't have cuts. We just do the best with what we have, kids who want to work hard and play ball."
This column represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.