ST. JOHN — Maggie Ballentine says she was relaxed.
The Crown Point senior was calm, despite striking out in her first two at bats and despite being down 0-2 in the count with the bases loaded in the sixth inning of a tie game in the Class 4A Lake Central Sectional semifinal.
“I didn’t have the best day going into (that at bat) but it’s softball. It’s a game of failure. You expect days like that and we were playing a very, very quality team,” Ballentine said. “I went up there took a deep breath. I was just like ‘OK, we’re going to go do this.’”
She fouled off two pitches and worked the count back in her favor, walking to bring in the game-winning run to help Crown Point beat Munster 3-1.
“I was relaxed as any athlete can get. The adrenaline was high. It was loud,” Ballentine said. “It was really a team effort today. A lot of people came up for us and got some big hits when it was really important for us.”
Bulldogs coach Pete Iussig said he was happy to have one of his veteran players in the batter’s box in that situation. The Mustangs intentionally walked Mallory McMahon to get to Ballentine.
“I knew she wouldn’t swing at bad pitches,” Iussig said. “I said to her ‘You know why they’re walking (McMahon), right?’ She said ‘Yeah.” And I said ‘Prove them wrong.’ She had a great at bat. A walk in a situation like that is a good at bat.”
Crown Point scored in the first inning after leading off the game with a single that got by outfielder Paige Vukadinovich. Phillips ended up on third base and scored on passed ball.
“(Phillips’) baserunning was outstanding. Stolen base, two hits, two of the three runs, heads up play when the ball got past the left fielder, she runs home when the ball got five feet away from the catcher and scores the first run,” Iussig said. “That’s why she’s going to Marian to play softball.”
Munster’s Daija Williams reached third base on a controversial play in the fourth inning. The junior took off from second on a passed ball. Phillips appeared to tag her after a throw from catcher Zoie Rettig but she was called safe.
Hailey Sullivan reached on an error on the next pitch and Williams scored to tie the game 1-1.
“We knew it was going to be close,” Iussig said. “(Munster pitcher Emily) Dato is just outstanding. There’s probably five really top notch pitchers in the area and she’s one of them.”
Crown Point will play Lake Central in the sectional final at 5 p.m. Friday. The Indians won both regular-season meetings with the Bulldogs.
LC beat Lowell 9-0 in the first game Thursday behind home runs by Amanda Aardema and Alexus Reece.
“We operated under the same philosophy we operate under when we’re the visiting team on the scoreboard, which we really do like to be. That’s score early, put pressure on the other team, make it feel like an uphill battle for them the entire night,” Indians coach Jeff Sherman said.
Peyton Pepkowski retired the first 10 Red Devils before Jillian Scott’s triple in the fourth inning. She threw five innings, allowing one hit and no walks and striking out 11.
“She was even better in innings three, four and five than she was in one and two,” Sherman said. “It seemed like she was all over the zone and they were having trouble picking the ball up.”