Last July Miranda Elish and the Crown Point Bulldogs went to the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championship in California and finished ninth. There weren't a ton of highlights.
Oh, what a difference a year can make.
Last week, Elish, now playing for the Beverly Bandits 16U team, went to the same elite tournament in Huntington Beach, California. The Bandits went 0-2-1 in pool play against some of the best teams in the country.
"I knew if our bats didn't come alive we were going to go home early," said Elish, soon to be a sophomore at Crown Point.
Elish and Lake Central players Lizzie Seymour and Aspyn Novak did not pack their bags before anyone else. The Bandits won eight games in bracket play to win the national championship.
Elish pitched in all eight games, including the championship against the Orange County Batbusters team. It was a 2-0 gem in Cal State-Fullerton's stadium.
Elish had an 0.86 ERA in bracket play with 33 strikeouts in 40.2 innings pitched. She credited Seymour for getting a big hit and scoring a run in the final and Novak playing great defense in right field.
"It's so amazing that we won," Elish said. "Every team we played was very good and they were all good games. The other teams were rolling past people. No game was an easy game.
"These were the best hitters we've faced, a lot were going to major D-I colleges. It is so amazing to win nationals in the best tournament in the country. I can't describe it to anyone."
Elish has already committed to Oregon. Seymour will play at George Mason. The L.C. senior said coach Jenn Tyrrell brought the Bandits together after a rough pool play session for a pep talk.
Seymour knew it didn't look pretty early.
"We did not look good at all," Seymour said. "Coach told us she didn't care how we did, wins or losses. She just wanted us to play our best. We had a great practice and got on a roll. It is one of the best experiences I've ever had in my career."
Seymour batted a team-high .391. The Bandits were only the second non-California team to win the PGF national title.
Novak had a tougher time. An eye infection took the Lake Central junior out of the batting order. But she was able to see well enough to play in the field.
"I couldn't see anything," Novak said. "I had to go to the eye doctor out there. But I was able to get the job done."
When asked how she could see the ball in the field but not in the batter's box she laughed.
"I have no idea but I was able to get it done," Novak said. "The whole team picked each other up."
The game was televised, but none of the locals have been able to see the game that was played in front of 1,000 fans. But they all plan to watch a rebroadcast soon.
"It's going to be weird," Novak said. "I've never seen myself on television."