It’s still a sore conversation with Hobart softball players.
Just bring up last year’s Sectional 2 championship game 6-5 loss to eventual state champion Portage, and you’ll get anything from a cringe to a frown as the reaction.
Throw in a scheduling mix-up this year, which prevented the Brickies and Times No. 5 Indians from facing in the regular season, and you can bet the players are happy with Thursday’s IHSAA state tourney draw.
Hobart meets Portage at 10 a.m. May 26 in the opening round of the LaPorte Sectional.
“My players weren't happy with last year's loss to Portage and it stuck with them for quite awhile,” Hobart coach Katrina Lucas said. “We usually play them in our regular season but we did not play them this year, and when my girls found that out, they were disappointed because they really wanted the opportunity to face them again. I think they'll be ready and fired up to play them in sectionals.”
There are 375 teams entered in the 30th IHSAA state softball tournament. The four-class tourney's sectionals will run from May 26 through the 31st. The 64 sectional winners will play the one-game regional on Tuesday, June 3. The four-team semistates will be played on Saturday, June 7. The state finals will be held on June 14 at Indianapolis Ben Davis High School.
That’s just one of several interesting first-round matchups in local sectionals.
Times No. 1 and undefeated Crown Point sits on the other half of the draw opposite Hobart-Portage with a 5 p.m. Memorial Day game against Merrillville.
In Class 4A Sectional 1, Munster and Lake Central will meet for the fifth straight year, facing off at 12:30 on May 26. Three of the last four it’s been in the first round, and each of the last four years the winner of the meeting wins the sectional. Last year it was the No. 8 Mustangs earning the title after No. 4 L.C. had won three straight crowns.
Class 3A Sectional 18 at Kankakee Valley might be the most-competitive bracket in the Region. The host Kougars, Times No. 2 Hanover Central, No. 3 Wheeler and No. 9 Andrean all have legitimate shots to bring home a title, and it might actually be considered a disappointing season in any of those camps if a title wasn’t won. The Bearcats and 59ers will face in the first game of the sectional, playing at 5:30 May 27.
“I don’t know if there’s a draw you can like in this sectional,” Wheeler coach Marc Bruner said. “It’s balanced some good teams on each side of the bracket. I think we all have a couple tough games.”
K.V. and Hanover have separate games on the opposite end of the draw. The Kougars play Knox at 5:30 May 28, while the Wildcats follow against New Prairie at 7:30. If each wins, then it’s a rematch of their game on April 12 in which Hanover won 9-2 at K.V.
Wheeler moved up from Class 2A after beating Whiting in the final last season. Now that 2A Sectional 33 is opened up for the Oilers, Lake Station, which won two years ago, and No. 7 Bishop Noll, which hasn’t won a sectional since 2006. The Warriors have a favorable draw, not playing until the second semifinal at 4:30 p.m. May 28 against Hebron.
“It’s great to get the bye, but we are playing a tough opponent with one of the best pitchers in the area (Maggie Lindeman),” Noll coach Rich Sobilo said. “I believe one of five teams could win our sectional. Our nine-inning battle against Whiting (on Wednesday, won by Noll 1-0) is an indication of how tight our teams are.”
The Oilers face Boone Grove at 3 p.m. May 26. The Wolves have improved as the season has worn on. The survivor meets the winner of Lake Station-River Forest at 4:30 p.m. May 27.