CROWN POINT | The butterflies were there at 7:40 p.m. That's when the game started. And they had gotten bigger and the colorful wings were flapping harder two hours later when the game ended.
There was no relenting in what was going on in the belly of Crown Point freshman pitcher Rachael Centanni on Monday night when her Bulldogs took on LaPorte in the Class 4A Crown Point Sectional opener.
"They (butterflies) were there when it started and they were there when it ended," said Centanni, who fired a two-hitter as her Bulldogs beat the Slicers 4-1. "But I build off the nerves. It makes me pitch better."
LaPorte (21-8) had knocked the Bulldogs (16-8) out of three of the last four sectionals. Last year the 'Dogs were No. 1 in the state when the Slicers upset them. Coach Brett Crutchfield, though, said that wasn't an issue as his team prepared to host the sectional.
"We didn't talk about it once," Crutchfield said. "Yesterday is as old as dirt. We wanted to just play in the moment."
Crown Point opened early when Allison Amodeo drew a walk in the first inning and advanced to second on a sacrifice. She would later score on a passed ball. Then, Allyson Rock reached base on an error and later scored on Courtney Holm's RBI single.
The 2-0 lead after one gained another in the second when two more LaPorte errors set up Jessica Palm's RBI groundout. In the sixth inning, Siena Gyure's single turned into a run when a fly ball to right was dropped.
LaPorte pitcher Meghan Bunch gave up 13 runs to the Bulldogs this year and only two were earned.
"You can't kick the ball around and drop flies and expect to win," LaPorte coach Bob Severs said. "Give Crown Point credit. The last few times we saw them they had two or three errors in those games and they didn't have any tonight."
Gyure had pitched the greatest majority of games the second half of the season. Crutchfield said he went with Centanni on nothing more than a hunch. With Centanni in the starting lineup, it meant that Crown Point started four freshmen in the game.
The Bulldogs will take on Valparaiso in Thursday's semifinal. Valpo beat Merrillville 12-2 in Monday's opener. The Pirates had nine errors in the game. But coach Jake Stafford is looking forward to building toward the future.
Junior Inesha Smith was 2-for-2 with one run scored. Junior Mercedes McClendon had a hit and a RBI. And Gabby Ponce doubled home a run for the Pirates (1-19).
"Errors killed us tonight," Stafford said. "We also left seven runners on base. If we catch the ball and knock a couple of those runners in it's a different game. We'll take a couple of weeks off and start building this summer."