Champions

Photo courtesy of Zionsville Little League

The Zionsville Juniors (14) Softball All-Stars won the state championship Sunday evening in Fort Wayne. The team will play in Pendleton for the Central Region title this weekend. Winning team members are: Sophie Clayton, Sophie Huber, Madison Jackson, Molly Jefferson, Addison Kaleth, Everly McKenzie , Olivia Mulholland, Sophia Raikos, Katherine Readinger, Kelsey Serbin, Marley Sharpe, Isabella Strecker, and Dakota Young.

To sum up the Zionsville Little League Junior Softball (14U) All-Stars' State Tournament in one word it would be pretty simple — domination.

The Eagles out-scored their five state tournament opponents 74-8, including 62-1 in the final four games, to with the state title.

"I couldn't be more proud of these girls," Zionsville manager Tony Kaleth said. "They are really gelling at the right time of the season. We have had our ups and downs this summer, but we are playing our best softball right now at the right time."

Zionsville topped Indiana Central Little League 10-0 in the championship game to win the title.

The two teams had met earlier in the tournament, with Zionsville winning 12-7 in the opening game, but the Eagles knew they hadn't played their best in that game and had found their groove. Kaleth said it was the fifth time the teams had met at various events over the summer, and although the Eagles had been successful in the those previous games, they knew it wouldn't be easy.

"Each time we played them it got tougher for us and they started to see us more and what we could do," Kaleth said. "We told the girls going into the game to not underestimate anyone and just do what they do. My motto with them has been 'see ball, hit ball, catch ball' and that's all we wanted to the girls to focus on."

Early on, it looked like it would be a close game.

Zionsville went up 1-0 in the bottom of the first, scoring on an error, then pushed the lead to 3-0 in the third on back-to-back RBI-singles by Katherine Readinger and Addison Kaleth.

The score remained that way until the fifth, when then Eagles put the game away to win the title.

With two on and no outs, the Eagles got a run on a wild pitch, then an error allowed another run to score to make it 5-0.

Zionsville then loaded the bases, and Sophie Huber made it 6-0 with an RBI-single.

Sophia Raikos followed with a 2-run single to make it 8-0, before Marley Sharpe kept the line moving with a run-scoring single to make it 9-0.

Molly Jefferson knocked in the game-clinching run.

The fifth inning was the perfect cap for the tournament, with all nine girls in the line-up at the time reaching base and contributing to the rally.

"This was definitely a total team effort," Kaleth said. "I know some of the girls probably wanted to play a little more, but regardless of how much they played, they had a role on this team and they all played their roles really well and contributed a lot to this win. All these girls are talented players with great character and when they had their opportunity to shine, they took it."

The offense was clicking all tournament long for the Eagles, who batted .481 as a team and had six girls — Sophia Raikos (.700), Katherine Readinger (.688), Marley Sharpe (.578), Molly Jefferson (.588), Dakota Young (.500) and Addison Kaleth (.500) all better than .500 with 10 or more plate appearances.

Every girl in the line-up scored a run.

"We just had great consistency in our approach," Kaleth said. "One through nine, they all had the same approach of not trying to do too much or swing too hard. We just wanted them to focus on hitting hard line drives and we probably had more line drives this weekend than we have all summer, which was key. We just wanted the girls to hit it hard, and if they made a play, they made a play."

It wasn't just the offense that was clicking.

Defensively, the Eagles committed just six errors in the tournament, five of which came in the opening game.

Jefferson pitched three victories, allowing just 13 hits in 16 innings and striking out 11. She pitched a 1-hit shutout in the state title game.

Kelsey Serbin pitched a no-hitter in the semifinals against Anderson, and allowed just three hits in eight inning during two wins. She didn't allow a run.

"Really softball comes down to pitching, solid defense and timely hitting," Kaleth said. "We have had some moments this summer where maybe we didn't pitch the best and walked too many people, or the nerves set in, but this weekend we were great all-around. Our defense was outstanding in the outfield and infield and our pitchers weren't walking people to put extra pressure on the defense. Any coach will tell you that you have to limit your errors to be successful, and we were able to do that."

The Eagles now advance to the Central Region Tournament in Pendleton next weekend.

Next up for the Eagles is a trip to the Regional Tournament, which will be held next weekend in Pendleton.

It is a double-elimination bracket with the state champions from Ohio, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Zionsville will face Illinois at 5 p.m. on Friday night.

"We really aren't going to change our approach this week in practice," Kaleth said. "We just want the girls to have fun and appreciate the moment. I think when they get to the tournament next weekend, and see the girls from different states, the great venues and environment, it will be once in a lifetime memories for them that they will always remember. The big things they will remember are the camaraderie they have with one another and all the friendships and fun times they had."

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