CROWN POINT | A game of inches followed suit on Tuesday night at the Class 4A Crown Point softball regional.
But Lake Central's bats turned those inches into a mile.
The game was decided in the first inning, though it kept a standing-room-only crowd on pins and needles through the first six outs. But few were sure who had the upper hand until Crown Point's final out in the first frame.
Lake Central scored three runs in the top half of the first and held on for a 4-1 win, meaning the Indians advanced to Saturday's Lafayette Harrison Semistate, where they'll meet Penn in a semifinal game. The Indians (28-5) beat Penn 7-6 in the regular season.
"We talked all week about how we had to score runs early on the road in a regional on someone else's home field," Lake Central coach Jeff Sherman said. "And that's what our girls did."
Kayla Bishton walked to open the game. One out later, Sam Terry hit a 9-iron that landed in the only spot in the infield where no Bulldog could make a play.
Nikki Adams followed that up with a fly to left that was dropped. Jess Haskins' floater one out later fell in for two RBIs.
"I swung, it happened and it was cool," Haskins said.
Crown Point (18-9) loaded the bases in the bottom of the first with no one out, and a sacrifice fly by Allyson Rock brought in the 'Dogs' only run. Another walk refilled the bases, but L.C. starting pitcher Bridget Boyle fanned the next two batters to end the threat.
The Bulldogs loaded the bases again in the fourth, but could not get the game-changing hit.
"We just didn't cash in on our chances," Crown Point coach Brett Crutchfield said. "Those three runs were huge. They were the difference in the game -- that's the game."
Lake Central freshman Lily Del Toro entered the game in the fifth and only allowed one infield single while striking out five.
"I felt like all my pitches were working," said Del Toro, who threw a one-hitter against Crown Point earlier in the season. "This feels real good. I had good spin and Sam (Terry) called a great game."
Terry had two hits and scored two runs. Adams was 2-for-3 with one RBI, Morgan Moseley had a double, and Kaitlyn Ranieri had an RBI single in the first.
"She was giving me a lot of pitches to hit," Adams said of Bulldogs pitcher Rachael Centanni. "I'm confident in my swing. I know I'm going to hit the ball."
Crown Point's Allison Amodeo reached base twice, as did Jessica Palm, Rae Anna Jenks and Tori Connelly. But no Bulldog had more than one hit.
Still, the senior class at Crown Point won the school's first Duneland Athletic Conference title, was part of the first Bulldogs team to get ranked No. 1 in the state and captured the school's first sectional title in eight years.
"Give them credit, they put the ball in play," Crutchfield said of L.C. "The future is bright here, but I'm so proud of this senior group. This senior class is the best we've ever had."