Like many region softball fans, Kaitlyn Ranieri was riveted to the television as Valparaiso University's Crusaders were making a historic run in the postseason.
Valpo won the Horizon League tournament championship and advanced to the NCAA tournament. Ranieri, a senior center fielder for Lake Central, watched as V.U. had a lead on Louisville with two outs in the final inning before a walk-off homer ended the dream.
Ranieri will play softball at Valparaiso next school year.
Ranieri and her Indians will host Chesterton today in the Class 4A Regional, with the first pitch slated for 5 p.m.
"What they did makes me more excited to go there," Ranieri said. "It makes me want to be a part of that, a chance to play in the College World Series and a chance to play on television."
The IHSAA state championship softball games are also on TV, but her Indians (26-2) are three wins away from getting to state. There is still work to do.
Ranieri was her typical self in the 5-0 win against Munster to clinch the Highland Sectional championship. She was 2-for-3 with a double, one run scored and three RBIs.
L.C. coach Jeff Sherman shakes his head when thinking about how talented the future Crusader is.
"She has improved in every facet of the game since I've been here," Sherman said. "Her arm strength is five times better than two years ago. She's running the bases faster. And she is still hitting the ball very good.
"Valparaiso is getting a special player."
Heading into the sectional semifinal Ranieri was batting .355 with 21 runs and 17 RBIs. And ...
"She's a much better outfielder than she was before," Sherman said.
Ranieri said it didn't matter to her who L.C. played, Chesterton or Crown Point. She spoke after the Munster win and before the Sectional 2 game was decided.
This is an example of how confident this Indians team is.
"I don't think it matters," Ranieri said. "We're confident in our team. It doesn't matter who we play if we're playing our best."
And if the Indians keep playing their best, Ranieri may get on the television before she gets to V.U.