ST. JOHN | On June 1 last spring, Lake Central played a softball game with more than a bit of importance.
And after the Indians started swinging their bats, it wasn't much of a game at all.
"It looked like a beach ball," L.C. junior Nikki Adams said of how the softball appeared to her and her teammates.
"It was pretty juicy," Jess Haskins said.
Lake Central beat LaPorte 13-0 and advanced to the Class 4A semistate game, losing to eventual state champion Hamilton Southeastern 5-3. The Indians return all of their top five hitters -- Adams, Haskins, Sam Terry, Kaitlyn Ranieri and Marissa Maluchnik -- from 2010, and this high school version of Murderer's Row should spend much of the 2011 season knocking the ball around the yard.
With the addition of junior Morgan Moseley, who hit eight homers in two seasons at Andrean, people might need to duck when everything starts rolling.
L.C. averaged 7.3 runs a game last season. The five returnees batted .404 with 126 RBIs, 41 doubles and 10 triples, and Adams set a school record with her 15 two-base hits.
"We have a lot of confidence in our hitting," Adams said, "and Morgan brings us another big stick."
All but Maluchnik once played on a 10-and-under travel team that finished fourth at a national tournament.
"Of these six girls, every one of them could be someone else's No. 3 hitter," L.C. coach Jeff Sherman said. "But they're great teammates. They understand that a couple of them might have to bat No. 6 or No. 7 for us.
"It takes a special kind of person to put the team ahead of themselves."
To think a team that scored 235 runs last year could be even better is frightening. Most offenses last spring rose up when the pitching rubber was moved from 40 to 43 feet away from the plate, but at Lake Central, it was like a rocket ship caught fire.
"We had a lot of young girls last year who had never been through it before," Sherman said. "It's nice knowing that we're going to have that much more experience this year."
While Lake Central has solid pitching, the Indians do not have an ace who can go three weeks without allowing a run. Thus, Sherman will use a rotation of Bridget Boyle, Morgan Franovich and Moseley, and ride whichever pitcher has the hot hand.
But it might be possible to pitch someone's grandmother and still be successful because the Indians are going to score a lot of runs.
"Last year, we didn't think we'd go as far as we did," Ranieri said. "Now, our expectations are a lot higher. We want to win state. We have a lot of people back and we were not that far away from winning it last year."