Maddie Swart will tell anyone willing to listen that she is blessed to have been an athlete at Kankakee Valley.
During her prep career, she played soccer, basketball and softball for the Kougars and sustained a lot of success. She was a part of four Northwest Crossroads Conference championships and two sectional titles on the hardwood and helped win two NCC championships and back-to-back semistate crowns on the diamond in 2016 and 2017.
She capped off her career Saturday in the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association North-South All-Star game by being named the Most Valuable Player in the North’s 9-4 victory at Indiana University. Swart went 1-for-2 with one run and two RBIs and made a handful of stellar defensive plays to bring home some hardware in her last game representing Kankakee Valley.
“It was a good way to just end it,” said Swart, who has committed to Purdue Fort Wayne. “Everything was fun and carefree, and we were just going out and playing the game that we love.”
There were originally supposed to be two all-star games played at Andy Mohr Field, but due to rainy weather the ICGSA opted to combine for one nine-inning game. With athletes from all four classes playing in one contest, Swart didn’t see as much action as she would have liked. However, she said it was still awesome to compete alongside and against the top players in the state.
In addition to Swart, Crown Point’s Caitlyn Phillips, Chesterton’s Lexi Benko, Valparaiso's Peyton Zahm and Lake Central’s Olivia Peterson and Jenna Towle were the other Region seniors chosen to compete on the North squad. Swart said it was surreal to know that all of them will continue their careers in college, especially considering how much they’ve grown and improved.
Swart has been playing on the same travel team as Benko for a number of years and also spent a few summers competing with Towle. Back when they started, Swart said none of them were really thinking about their careers beyond high school. But now that their prep softball days are over, she and Towle said they are grateful.
“Maddie and I have been friends ever since we met on our first team, which I believe was when we were 14,” said Towle, who has committed to Missouri-St. Louis. “A couple of years ago, we thought that was going to be the last time we were ever going to play together. So for us to have this chance, it was surreal. It was amazing being able to play with her again and crazy to see how far we’ve come.”
Towle started in the North-South All-Star game and was one of five ICGSA Miss Softball finalists. Although she pitched just one inning, she made the most of her time in the circle and retired the only three batters she faced — all of whom were fellow Miss Softball finalists.
Indians coach Jeff Sherman has been working with the ICGSA for roughly eight years and was one of three coaches selected for the North team. After coordinating the event in the past, he said it was an honor to be in the dugout and that his experience was even sweeter because of Towle’s strong showing.
“Jenna may have had the toughest pitching assignment of anyone all day,” said Sherman, who was named the ICGSA District 1 Coach of the Year. “That’s something a lot of people didn’t recognize or think about while the game was going on. But she had an extremely tough assignment during her inning of work, and I was really proud of her for the way she handled it.”
Similar to Swart, Towle also enjoyed a lot of accomplishments throughout her high school career. During her time at Lake Central, the Indians secured two Duneland Athletic Conference titles and a semistate crown in 2018.
Both players wish they could’ve won a state championship. However, they added that playing in the North-South All-Star game was still a great way to close out their memorable prep journeys.
“All of the hard work we put in and all of the hours and countless times we had to sacrifice stuff, it actually meant something,” Swart said. “We actually get to keep on playing now, so it was all worth it in the end.”