Lanesville softball coach Rusty Cecil tested his best pitcher against the best competition on the schedule. Now he will see if that trial by fire pays dividends.
The No. 12 Eagles (16-10) will tangle with defending champion Indianapolis Lutheran in the first game of the Class A semistate at North Daviess on Saturday at 11 a.m. The winner will meet either No. 2 Rising Sun (24-6) or Tecumseh (19-7) in the final at 7 p.m.
Lanesville pitcher Emma Zeller (8-6) has faced upper-class foes New Albany, Jeffersonville and Corydon during the regular season. She took her lumps but gained valuable experience.
“Her record is kind of deceiving because I’ve pitched her against the teams we’ve come across that were the tougher on our schedule,” Cecil said. “I put her in that situation so, if we got this far, she would be ready to go against a good team.”
No. 9 Lutheran (15-12) is also better than its record. With pitcher Anna Phillippe (1.06 ERA) in the circle, and with senior third baseman Leah Carter (.405) and senior center fielder Jonni Nowakowski (3 HRs, .398) sparking the offense, the Saints are eyeing another shot at a state title.
Lanesville has never won a semistate but has made two appearances in the state finals (in 2005-06, when the tournament format featured a four-team final). The Eagles will count on Zeller (who struck out 12 in the regional win over Springs Valley) to shut down the Saints while Amanda Pavey, Brooklynn Keinsley and Tara Borders produce runs.
“We have to put the ball in play,” Cecil said. “We have to try and make things happen when we have the opportunity.”
Tecumseh, the semistate winner in 2011, matched a state record with its seventh straight regional title. Rising Sun’s Alix DeDreu is hitting .481 and ranks second in the state with 23 wins in the circle.
The semistate champion will advance to the state title game at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis on June 8 at 10:30 a.m.
Providence will take its best shot at the state’s best team.
The Pioneers (22-9) will meet No. 1 Evansville Mater Dei (28-2) in the second game of the 2-A semistate at Forest Park. Scecina (19-9) will face Eastern Hancock (24-6) in the opener at 11 a.m., with the winners to decide the title at 7 p.m.
After winning the sectional and regional titles as a heavy favorite, Providence will reverse roles as it bids for its first semistate title and a return trip to the state finals for the first time since 2005.
“It allows our girls to take a step back from being the favorite and play in the underdog role for a little bit,” Providence coach Sean Payne said. “They can breathe without having more pressure put on us. It means we’ll have to bring our best possible game to advance. We’re definitely capable of doing that.”
Mater Dei has won 23 straight games with junior Carolyn Wilmes (16 strikeouts in a nine-inning regional win over Linton) doing most of the damage. She’s 26-1 and leads the state in strikeouts.
Providence will test her with a potent offense, led by sophomore cleanup hitter Lillian Hughes. Senior pitcher Meredith Endris (10-2) will attempt to help the Pioneers set a school record for single-season wins.
“We can just relax, play ball, and not have to worry about anything,” Payne said. “I’m confident in this squad. This team has a great attitude, great leadership and hitters throughout the lineup.”
The semistate champion will advance to the state title game at Ben Davis High School on June 8 at 1:30 p.m.