INDIANAPOLIS | Most teams mentally lock into a zone before a state championship game and try to focus entirely on their game.
The Andrean softball team decided to sing “Happy Birthday” before Saturday’s Class 3A softball state championship instead.
“I think that was their way to keep relaxed,” 59ers coach Brooke Baker-Runyon said. “I told them before going into it, ‘Don’t look at it as nerves, look at it as anxiousness. You’re so anxious that you want to prove that you deserve this.’”
The 59ers proved themselves early, scoring six runs in the first inning and never looking back, defeating Edgewood 9-2 at Ben Davis High School to win their third softball state championship in school history.
“When were talking about it before we warmed up, we were saying how nervous we were last year,” senior pitcher Nikki Steinbach said. “We were really nervous. We just had that feeling. This year we weren’t nervous at all. We just knew it was our year.”
A six-run cushion before she even made her way into the circle helped, too.
“I knew we were going to win in the first inning,” Steinbach said about the explosive first inning.
This was Steinbach’s third time at state during her four-year career, but her very first win.
“I’m kind of overwhelmed right now because I finally won state,” she said.
Steinbach finished with 11 strikeouts, while giving up six hits and two runs in her last game in an Andrean uniform.
“I knew she was on a mission this year. Mission accomplished, right? I didn’t expect anything less of her,” Baker-Runyon said.
The first five Andrean batters all reached base safely, including back-to-back RBI doubles by Steinbach and sophomore Brenna Boyle.
“Last year we came out nervous,” Boyle said. “This year we were so much more confident. We knew that we had the team, we just had to put it all together.”
Boyle finished the day 3-for-4 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored. Her two doubles ties a 3A state finals record.
“I was just seeing the ball really well,” Boyle said.
Savy Kinsella, Kaitlin Barajas, and Boyle all had multi-hit games. The 59ers totaled 12 hits.
“Our whole thing this year was to score early and often,” Barajas said. “That’s what we wanted to do. I think we’ve been doing it the past couple of weeks really well.”
For Barajas and Steinbach, as well as fellow seniors Johnee Rodish and Kaitlyn Bridgeman, their last game as a 59er ended a bit like a fairytale.
“I couldn’t imagine ending my senior year a better way,” Barajas said.
“It’s an awesome feeling. It’s all I’ve wanted since I’ve started at Andrean, but especially this year. All I wanted was state.”