HAMMOND | Bishop Noll lost a lot of talent from its softball team last year. At the top of the list was hard-throwing pitcher Vanessa Hartzell, a powerful strikeout waiting to happen.
Still, in March, Warriors coach Ralph Laramie was a little more than optimistic.
This week, after earning the Greater South Shore Conference title, Laramie's mustard-seed faith was realized.
"We don't have one senior on this team," Laramie said. "The future looks bright."
Leading the way from this rags to riches result is Tori Keilman, Noll's freshman third baseman who has been a vacuum at the hot corner. The Calumet City product has also swung a big stick for a team that scores runs with ease.
"I've been around softball my entire life," Keilman said after Wednesday's win over Whiting. "I've spent the entire summer at softball fields. I've been there 10 hours on many days."
Keilman was also a key part of Noll's GSSC winning girls basketball team. While she loves the sport with the big orange ball, it's the little yellow one that gets her heart pounding.
"Because of basketball I didn't know a lot of the girls on the softball team," Keilman said. "But when I got here, after about a week, I had confidence in the talent that we had. I knew we could be special.
"It wasn't just the talent, though. It was the way we meshed."
Fewer balls were put in play last year so some of the holes in the infield weren't exposed. This year, though, Keilman and company have proven that if the ball is hit in the infield against the Warriors it's probably going to be an out.
And that has put a smile on Laramie's face.
"She's filled a spot," he said. "We have a young team. But they've grown up together in a short time. If somebody doesn't do something on one day, someone else will do it the next day.
"In years past we didn't score a lot of runs."
That has been a big change that has taken Noll to the top. In a typically miserable Northwest Indiana spring, where weeks went by with cold and rain cancelling games, the Warriors were inside hitting, hitting and hitting.
Keilman started playing softball in first grade. She started playing travel ball when she was 9. Basketball didn't come for a couple more years.
While it is still many years away for the ninth-grader, Keilman wants to be a pediatric nurse, where she can work with children and she wants to be a coach.
Here, though, is where the story turns a little weird. While softball is her favorite sport, she wants to coach basketball. Living here is the reason why.
"I like being inside when it's cold," she said. "That's why I want to coach basketball."
Noll drew Whiting in the Class 2A Lake Station Sectional. Noll's girls basketball team beat the Oilers twice in the regular season in hoops then lost in the sectionals.
Noll has beaten Whiting twice in this regular season. Could it be deja vu all over again?
"They're going to come out like they did in basketball," Keilman said. "But they won't beat us this time. I won't let it happen again."