ST. JOHN — Just when it looked like Lake Central’s prolific offense was going dormant at the most important time of the year, Bree Mitchell lit a spark that proved to be contagious.
The Indians entered Tuesday’s Class 4A regional title game against Crown Point having outscored opponents 29-0 in the postseason and 88-2 since dropping a 5-0 contest to the Bulldogs on May 5.
Crown Point pitcher Grace Lucka kept the Indians off the board for the first four innings on Tuesday, but when Mitchell laced a triple into left field, it jump started a rally that included three extra-base hits. Lake Central scored two runs during the spark and added another in the sixth to knock off Crown Point 3-1 in the third meeting of the year between the Duneland Athletic Conference rivals.
“I love being under pressure,” Mitchell said. “I knew we had to do it sometime. I came up with the mindset (in the fifth inning) that we needed to get something started. It was getting late in the game.”
It's Lake Central's first crown since 2018. The Indians face Columbia City in the Harrison (West Lafayette) Semistate semifinals Saturday.
Mitchell smoked a pitch from Lucka that fell just short of the left-field wall and the Wisconsin commit easily raced into third base for a leadoff triple. Jolie Adams broke a scoreless tie when she punched a double into the left field gap and the freshman later scored when Sydney Doloszycki doubled to right field.
“I just knew that I had to get (Mitchell) in,” Adams said. “It needed all of us to string something together.”
The Indians and Bulldogs split the first two meetings of the season and despite going 11 straight innings without a run against Crown Point, Lake Central coach Jeff Sherman knew the rally was coming.
“We did a nice job of adjusting and just getting comfortable in the box and seeing more pitches (from Lucka),” Sherman said. “That’s just us at the plate. We’ve been really good offensively all year. We felt it was just a matter of time. There’s no giving up in this lineup.”
The Bulldogs (28-4) didn’t go quietly as Emily Phillips led off the sixth with a double and scored off a single from senior Madi Elish. With the game hanging in the balance, Lake Central catcher Jordan August delivered the defensive play of the afternoon when she threw a laser down to second base to catch Elish trying to steal for a key second out.
“That was a crazy play,” Lake Central pitcher Peyton Pepkowski said. “She made the best throw that I’ve seen her make all year. (Elish) was out by a lot. The throw was right on point.”
Mikayla Creasbaum added a key insurance run for the Indians (29-1) in the sixth inning with a leadoff home run. The Bulldogs came back in the seventh inning with the lead run at the plate, but Pepkowski delivered a pair of strikeouts to end the game and clinch Lake Central’s 15th regional title and second in the last three seasons. Pepkowski finished with 10 strikeouts and improved to 20-0 this season.
“Peyton didn’t let anything faze her,” Sherman said. “I knew that we were going to get the fierce, competitive Peyton Pepkowski, which I really thought we did.”
The Bulldogs will lose nine seniors, including Elish (Arizona) and Anna Holloway (Notre Dame). Seven of the nine seniors were in the starting lineup on Tuesday.
“This is a group that is a Crown Point legacy coming together,” Crown Point coach Angie Richwalski said. “Of the nine seniors, five or six of them had some big sisters that played and others have little sisters that will play. It hurts.”