CROWN POINT | It was in the bag. Over. Kaput.
You could hear car keys jangling in the bleachers Saturday at the Class 4A Crown Point Sectional. Heavy favorite Portage led Hobart 4-0 in the softball sectional championship game.
Then, out of nowhere, the Brickies scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead and every ounce of the momentum.
Portage coach Lisa Hayes gathered her team and said one thing.
"I told them to calm down, we can do this," Hayes said. "We've been talking about the word 'believe' all season. They believed they could do it and they did."
Lauren Murray led off the sixth with a single. One out later, Stephanie Upton ripped a triple to score Murray. One batter later, Jalise McKnight singled home the go-ahead run.
And with pitcher Heather Zengler coming into the game in the fifth to slow the Brickies down, the 6-5 win was complete.
Portage (21-6) will host Munster on Tuesday in the 4A regional.
Murray, McKnight and Zengler are all seniors. The title was Portage's 13th overall, but first since 2009.
"I can't put into words what this means, I'm speechless," said Zengler, who came into the game in the middle of a melee.
Portage committed two errors to open the fifth. Madeline Adams singled home two. Paige Talian singled and Zengler came in to relieve Kiley Jones.
Zengler struck out Hannah Wilson but the ball got past the catcher. Two grounds outs scored two more and the Brickies (16-11) had the lead. Of the 11 Hobart players Zengler faced, not one got a hit.
"I just took deep breaths," she said. "I stepped behind the (circle) and breathed. I knew my defense had my back. It's one pitch at a time. I can only focus on the next batter in front of me."
Adams went 1-for-4 with two RBIs and one run scored for Hobart. Brianna Kraft and Hannah Spence had RBIs.
Hobart hadn't played in a sectional championship in 15-plus years and hadn't won a sectional since 1988. But coach Katrina Lucas couldn't have been prouder after her Brickies stormed back and were six outs away from making history.
"They fought hard, they battled back," Lucas said. "We knew (Portage) would hit the ball. They're a good team. They got one more than we did. I hope my girls are proud and that we can carry this over into next year."
McKnight went 3-for-3 with a run and an RBI for Portage. Rachel Ortiz-Zabloudil went 1-for-3 with two runs scored. Kaitlin Doud added an RBI in the fifth.
The weathered "Believe" sign in Portage's dugout with the "v" broken off was being passed around in the post-game celebration. It's a tradition. Just like what this team did, winning like Portage used to in the olden days.
"I never got one of these as a player," Hayes said while holding the sectional trophy. "It feels so much better getting one of these as a coach."