MUNSTER | In March, when it was cold and rainy, Munster's softball team gathered with a lot of high hopes. Coach Beth Thornburg knew her Mustangs had a shot to make a good run this spring.
She had 10 returning players back with a lot of talent. The one question mark was senior pitcher Carly Murphy. It wasn't that she didn't have the goods to get a lot of people out.
The question was, would she be healthy? A shoulder injury during her junior year took a lot of wind out of her sails.
"The shoulder really slowed things down for her," Thornburg said on Monday morning. "I still don't know if she's 100 percent. She's still working on her stamina. But Carly's pitched some unbelievable games. She shut out Lake Central and Chesterton.
"I believe she is one of the best pitchers we've ever had here."
The numbers don't lie. Her 20 wins this year is a single-season school record. Her 160.3 innings is second and her 200 strikeouts is tied for second in school history.
If she gets one in tonight's Class 4A Portage Regional, Murphy will move to No. 2 in single-season strikeouts by herself.
Her career numbers tell more of the story of her place in Munster softball history. Her 40 wins is No. 2 along with her 448 strikeouts. Her 365 innings pitched is No. 3 on the list.
Her 9-4 win over Lowell on Saturday gave the Mustangs the Highland Sectional championship. It was Munster's first sectional crown since 2008.
"I definitely didn't have my best game today, but the offense came, and they were there to back me up. That's what's most important," Murphy told The Times after the game.
Thornburg knows her team was beaten 11-1 by Portage last week. Murphy gave up nine earned runs in that game.
But five years ago, Thornburg said, her team was beaten 15-2 by Lake Central in the regular season. However, the Mustangs came back in the postseason to get the win.
"Carly did not have her best game against them the first time," Thornburg said. "But I know she'll be ready (tonight). I know she'll be on her game."
When the season started Munster held a 10-week leadership program. Every player was asked what their goal was for this season. Once that question was answered they were asked, 'What are you going to do to get there?'
Lifting weights. Working hard at every team gathering. They were all asked to do a little more than they ever have before.
Winning the Northwest Crossroads Conference championship was first. Winning the Highland Sectional was second. Winning the school's first regional championship will be determined tonight at Portage.
"We know we're as good as anyone out there when we play well," Thornburg said. "So that's what we have to do."