Among her hundreds of trips to work out in the gym at Jerry Ross Elementary School in Crown Point, Alexis Holloway has had several interactions with the astronaut for whom the school is named.
She’s shaken hands with one of the most experienced space walkers in NASA history as a student at the school, as a middle school student dropping by to visit her mother, Cheryl, and work out at the school, and as a high school student dropping in during the offseason after school to pitch simulated games with her dad, Seth, with whom she’s been pitching in Ross’ gym for eight years.
“I still remember my first time seeing him,” Holloway said of the Crown Point native. “I’m a nerd like that, huge into math and science, and he was a very cool guy.”
Those moments before or after big assemblies featuring the school’s namesake, where Notre Dame-bound student-athlete Alexis Holloway took grief about her college choice from one of Purdue’s many astronaut alumni, were the meeting of a man who has swum among the stars and a hidden figure who would one day become a star.
Holloway burned bright and brilliantly this season. The dogged senior Bulldog stacked up awards and recognition with both deep appreciation and strong humility.
After leading Crown Point to a 30-2 mark and its first state championship in softball and picking up nods almost as often as double-digit strikeout games, Holloway is the Times' Softball Player of the Year.
“All the individual awards are awesome, but they mean more because we were able to do that together as a team,” Holloway said. “There’s no way I get all those things without the team that we had.”
Champions expect to win because they’ve put in the preparation to do so, and June 10 Holloway tackled fellow senior Lexi Madrigal to celebrate a 2-1 win over defending Class 4A state champion Avon in the title game, realizing a lifelong dream that had been dashed several times.
Holloway, taught long ago to expect to achieve perfection, seldom made mistakes, and if she did, she bounced back with vigor. In the state title game, she allowed a first-inning run and then cruised on her way to six strikeouts in a 94-minute gem. The earned run by Avon was one of just six allowed by Holloway all season.
She went 22-1 with a 0.26 ERA, 12 total runs, 20 walks allowed and 277 strikeouts in 164 1/3 innings.
A top student in her class with a 3.97 grade-point average and no trouble with the acceptance into Notre Dame, which she had committed to as a freshman after attending youth camps there for as long as she could remember, Holloway captured the IHSAA’s Mental Attitude Award.
She was named USA Today All-America, a Miss Softball finalist, and Indiana’s Gatorade Player of the Year while climbing the national recruiting charts and naturally earning a third consecutive first team all-state nod. More honors have been bestowed locally and nationally, more will come, and the intensity of travel softball with the Beverley Bandits will not subside for at least another month.
The memories of the bus ride home from state and two continuous hours of singing will never fade.
Holloway made the tough decision to honor a commitment to play in a travel tournament in California instead of the North-South All-Star games last weekend. One of the other five finalists for Miss Softball, Painfield’s Ashton Slone, who set a state record with a 49-game hitting streak with astronomical hitting numbers, received the award between games.
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“Ashton’s awesome, and her hitting stats were incredible and unbelievable,” Holloway said. “She’s a great girl, and I couldn’t be happier for her.”
Holloway’s lone year of completely unrivaled excellence came after the graduation of Miranda Elish, the Times' Player of the Year in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
“She was behind Miranda for three years, and Miranda was the one who got most of the spotlight, and deservedly so,” Crown Point coach Pete Iussig said. “I’m really glad Alexis got at least one year where she wasn’t behind Miranda. That was good for her. You couldn’t draw it up any better.”
Iussig, the Times Coach of the Year in his first year with the Bulldogs, was immediately impressed by Holloway’s ability to listen to coaching and her relentless pursuit of perfection, even if it meant staying late or going elsewhere for additional fine-tuning.
Many who have come across Holloway note that she is a shark between the foul lines but an eloquent, intelligent young woman outside of the game.
“I can’t say enough good things about Alexis Holloway,” Lake Central coach Jeff Sherman said after the Bulldogs defeated the Indians for the sectional championship. “She’s a fierce competitor.”
Iussig joked that she would probably try to dominate in anything up to and including Tiddlywinks.
“I like to win; I hate losing,” Holloway said. “I think I’m one of the most competitive people around. I don’t want to lose a coin flip.
Board games can get pretty heated every once in a while.”
Even pitching batting practice, Holloway did not want hitters to make contact. If she moved to second base or third base for a drill or a warmup, she'd strive to be the best possible infielder. Or cheerleader. Or postgame speaker.
As a hitter, she was elite. The fastest runner on the team from home to first, she held down the No. 3 spot in the lineup all season and hit .418 with a .541 slugging percentage, posting 41 hits, 22 RBI and 13 runs.
The postseason was filled with intense moments as teammates came up with massive clutch hits in postseason showdowns with the likes of Munster, Lake Central, Chesterton, No. 1 Penn, Hamilton Southeastern and Avon.
A victim of an early upset in 2016, Crown Point had a dialed-in Holloway and fortune on its side this season. The town rained support in the form of signs, several charitable gestures and a hearty crowd at Ben Davis High School for the title game when the exclamation point concluded the fairy tale.
“It was just such a great experience all around, and it went so fast,” Holloway said. “I’m very lucky to be part of a great program and a great school. It’s been a great four years for myself, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”