The losses have been few and far between for the Lake Central softball team this season, but there’s been one enduring lesson that ninth-year coach Jeff Sherman has been imparting on the Indians with each of the four missteps that have occurred this year.
“You have to have a short memory,” Sherman said. “We’ve been trying to tell the girls to keep moving after losses and looking at the games immediately following the contests in which we’ve lost, we’ve played pretty well.”
The Indians enter Saturday night’s IHSAA Class 4A state title game against Decatur Central riding a six-game winning streak, with their last loss coming to Kankakee Valley in the regular-season finale May 18.
Lake Central entered the seventh inning leading 11-4 as rain started to fall and darkness began to to set in. The Kougars proceeded to score eight runs in the top of the seventh inning, including an inside-the-park grand slam that gave Kankakee Valley a 12-11 victory.
“Sometimes crazy things happen in softball,” Sherman said following the game. “We’ll walk out of here after today and won’t think about this game again.”
If there was any question as to whether the Indians put the loss out of their minds, it was answered six days later when Lake Central knocked off the Kougars 3-2 in eight innings to advance to the Class 4A sectional title game and a rematch against defending state champion Crown Point.
It was the Bulldogs that handed Lake Central its first loss of the season back on April 19 when Crown Point scored nine runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to knock off the Indians 13-4. Two days later, Lake Central gave up nine runs in the top of the eighth inning before falling 13-5 to Avon at the Carmel Invitational.
Three losses, three games in which the Indians gave up at least eight runs in an inning. The only other loss of the season came in a 3-2 loss to Franklin Central in extra innings. It was the only game of the season where Lake Central didn’t hold a lead at some point.
“It really is that sometimes crazy situations happen and you try to limit the bleeding as much as you can,” Sherman said. “In many other games this year, we’ve been able to do that.”
While the Indians have been susceptible to giving up the big inning, they’ve also been known to deliver a handful of runs as well, most notable when Lake Central scored eight runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to knock off Decatur Central 8-1 on April 7.
The Indians (29-4) and Hawks (31-4) have played a lot of softball since their early-season encounter and while both teams have experienced success thanks to the big inning, they’ve also found success in the postseason by simply scoring first. In the 12 combined games that Lake Central and Decatur Central have played in the postseason, the two teams have scored first in each contest. It’s Sherman’s top goal entering Saturday’s game. Score first, and then avoid giving up the big inning.
“It’s one of the things that we’ve talked about since the start of the year and something that we’ve talked a lot about this week with us being the visiting team,” Sherman said. “We want to put pressure on Decatur Central. It boils down to the team that scores first. I would love to do the math, at all levels of baseball and softball, of how teams do that score first. Let’s go out there, score first and then play with a lead.”