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Sports reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.

MERRILLVILLE — There are 32 softball teams left in the state of Indiana competing on Semistate Saturday and each one of them has one goal in mind.

Win two games and advance to next Saturday's state championships that will be located at Purdue University's Bittinger Stadium.

Of the final 32, only two teams have losing records.

North Daviess (8-11) is playing in the southern semistate in Class A. And the Andrean 59ers (12-16-1) will be playing in the Class 2A LaVille Semistate.

Just ask Andrean coach Glenn Eisfelder what people are saying about this one.

"We played the No. 1 team in the state," Eisfelder of his team's opener against Bremen. "Then we have No. 3 (Whitko) and No. 5 (Tipton) on the other side. Then, there's us."

This is a coach who absolutely believes in his young team, even more so after the 59ers' miraculous win over Boone Grove in Tuesday's regional.

"All we wanted was an opportunity," Eisfelder said before Thursday's practice.

The 'Niners were trailing the Wolves 4-1 heading to the bottom of the seventh. Many teams just start loading their bat bags in situations like that. But not this squad.

Junior Karli Miller, who has missed most of the season with an injury and didn't play Tuesday, started speaking loudly as the players huddled.

She screamed, "Lets make some noise."

And that's what they did.

Lilly Pitts led off with a single. Alyssa Graegin walked. Leah Navarro was hit by a pitch. Julia Schutz got an RBI walk. Angelena Green roped a two-run double to tie the game.

Then, Taylor Menke got the game-winning single. On her birthday, no less.

"We've been coming from behind all season," Andrean junior Ashley Talaga said. "You can be emotional in softball. We got together and said, 'Let's go.'

"Our comeback was ridiculous. We were going so crazy in the dugout the fence had no purpose."

Can't you feel the thrills and chills of what's so great about high school sports?

"It was so awesome," Graegin added. "None of us wanted our season to end."

Graegin is from Valparaiso. Along with softball, she also is involved in Andrean's drama department.

"I played a plate in 'Beauty and the Beast,'" Graegin said with a giggle.

"I went to see it," said Talaga, also laughing. "She was a very good plate."

There's one thing about this team. They are having a ton of fun.

Talaga lives in Crown Point. Her father, Scott, is an assistant coach for the 59ers.

"I think my dad wanted a boy," Ashley Talaga said. "He put a ball in my hand as soon as I was born. We've done sports together since I was 5. It's been a lot of fun."

Andrean won its 11th sectional championship last week, all coming after the advent of class sports. The win at Whiting was Andrean's first sectional title since 2012, the last time Andrean won the state championship.

Andrean has won three state championships and finished runner-up three times.

If the 2018 team wins two games this weekend and then wins the state title next Saturday, it will finish the season 15-16-1, a state champ with a losing record.

And no one would care a bit.

While no one outside of the Region thinks this team has a chance at LaVille, Eisfelder's team has played one of the toughest schedules in the state in this class. It was ugly early but these girls have been playing well the last few weeks.

The freshmen and sophomores have gained experience and become good softball players.

"All season long our coaches have believed in us," Talaga said. "They are our biggest fans."

"We play with a lot of heart and we always have," Graegin said. "Even when we were losing we played with it. And I am sure we will (on Saturday)."

This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.

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