CROWN POINT | When Nicole Steinbach arose Saturday morning and saw the sun she was beaming.
"Let's play ball," the Andrean senior said aloud to no one in particular.
For the past two seasons the Crown Point Softball Tournament was rained out and never rescheduled. Steinbach and Andrean therefore hadn't played pseudo-rival Crown Point since 2009, a loss in this tourney.
Making up for canceled opportunities, Steinbach struck out 21 in a win over Hanover Central and then dominated the host Bulldogs to lead Andrean to a 3-0 mark and the championship in the event. A 2-0 59ers win in the title game prevented Crown Point from being undefeated in its first week since head coach Brett Crutchfield was placed on administrative leave.
"Her ‘want' really impressed me today," Andrean coach Brooke Baker-Runyon said. "Before the game I usually talk to her to get her going, but when she was warming up I could already see in her eyes that she was ready."
Times No. 2 Crown Point (10-2) managed just two hits against Steinbach, who fanned 10 and walked none in the six-inning, time-limited final.
In the opener against Hanover Central, Steinbach (9-1) walked one and struck out 21 in nine innings. She also hit a two-run home run in the top of the ninth after a go-ahead single by Kaitlin Barajas.
"It always rains on this day," Steinbach said. "We were fired up because we haven't played Crown Point in a long time."
The last time Andrean (10-1) and Crown Point met, current Crown Point assistant Russ Serrato was the head coach of the 59ers. Now he is C.P.'s co-coach indefinitely as investigations into allegations against Crutchfield continue.
Crown Point interim coach Ginger Britton would not comment on any off-field matters, and player interviews are prohibited.
C.P. won all of its weekday games this week in the wake of the changes, and the Bulldogs beat Wheeler 8-1, and Siena Gyure no-hit Hanover Central in a 3-0, six-inning win.
"That's the best I've seen her pitch," Britton said of Gyure.
Steinbach's screwball and change-up baffled hitters for Hanover (7-8) and Crown Point.
"It's never fun to lose, but every now and then it can help push you in the right direction," Britton said.
After Times No. 3 Andrean went nine innings with Hanover, the 59ers beat Wheeler 9-3. Saturday was the first of four consecutive weekend tournaments Andrean has scheduled.
"The girls that stepped on this field (against Crown Point), that's the team and effort we want to see the rest of the year," Baker-Runyon said. "If we do that in the state series we should have no problem getting far."