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Crown Point's Alexis Holloway throws a pitch in the first inning against Avon on Saturday during the Girls Softball 4A State Finals in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS -- How did this happen? Really?

After a liftime of coming home empty, a large, loud audience of softball fans in red assembled at Indianapolis Ben Davis High School on Saturday.

The Crown Point Bulldogs, who were prematurely called a dynasty five years ago, were playing Avon in the Class 4A state championship game.

And when Alexis Holloway threw a drop at 8:33 p.m. for strike three, her Bulldogs had won a classic 2-1 championship.

The first ever for for C.P.H.S.

Coach Pete Iussig told me earlier this week that neither Holloway nor Mackenzie Dunlap, both seniors, will be playing in the North-South All-Star game next weekend. Walking away from being named an Indiana All-Star isn't easy to do.

But both players felt committed to playing in California with their travel team, the Beverly Bandits.

"I told her that would likely cost her Miss Softball," Iussig said. "But she felt an obligation to her team. That says a lot about her."

Holloway didn't allow a hit after the second inning. The Notre Dame-bound ace gave up four hits.

And after all the failures over the past four seasons, it was Holloway and her teammates rolling in the dirt with smiles that will light the ages.

Holloway was named the IHSAA Mental Attitude Award winner, too. Never before has there been a better pick for such an honor.

Between the lines, Holloway will try to kill you. She's that much of a competitor. But off the field, No. 24 is the nicest, sweetest kid you'd ever want to meet. She doesn't think she's better than anyone around her.

And that, I believe, is why this team won. Finally.

"I can't say enough about my teammates," Holloway said, still smiling. "We have worked so hard to make this happen. We worked so hard on our defense. I couldn't have won this game without our defense.

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"They were amazing behind me tonight."

Iussig coming in was also huge. He brought a different chemistry to this talented team. Small ball became a part of the plan. Speed and defense was also turned up.

Youth wasn't discarded. It was lifted up and encouraged. All these parts came together for an almost perfect spring.

"She's pretty good, isn't she?" Iussig said, while hugging Holloway.

The standout pitcher brought up a packet that Iussig handed out to the team in February. There were a lot of motivational sentences there, along with some things the players needed to do to be their very best.

But at the bottom of the page was an address. It was the address for Ben Davis High School. That was ingrained in the minds of the players.

"He said isn't that where you want to end your season," Holloway said, still smiling. Some more. "And that's what we did."

Iussig was getting a lot of hugs after the win. He had former Bulldogs coach Ginger Britton in line for a medal. Britton played for Iussig at Lowell. That was a class act.

And Lowell athletic director Patti McCormack was the one who put the medal around Iussig's neck. Iussig coached at Lowell for 25 years.

"Yes, I plan on being back next year," Iussig said. "Unless they fire me."

Holloway had the quote of the night, though, but not quite as funny as her coach's. It explained what kind of person she is, what kind of player she is and why Crown Point was finally able to win a state championship.

"I'm not about the individual awards," Holloway said. "It's always team first. This (state) trophy is the only one I care about. It was an honor to be nominated for (Indiana All-Stars and Miss Softball), but we felt we couldn't let our (travel) team down.

"And with this, I don't need to win anything else."

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


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.