Former Holy Cross coach Dan Trame recalls the excitement of winning the 2005 slow-pitch softball state championship, and vividly remembers the post-game pile-up after beating Newport Central Catholic in the double-elimination final.
“We weren’t supposed to win it. NewCath was the favorite,” Trame said. “We had to come through the losers’ bracket, and we had to beat NewCath twice to win. When we won the second game, we had a big dog pile with me and my pitcher, Abby Webster, at the bottom of it, and I thought I was going to crush my pitcher.”
High school slow-pitch softball may be a thing of the past, but the memories live on at Holy Cross, home of the state’s last dynasty. The Indians won the first of back-to-back state titles in 2005.
“I can remember it like it was yesterday. I’m getting fired up thinking about it,” said Trame. “We won three of the last four slow-pitch state championships, then they took the sport away from us.”
The Indians went 5-1 at the all-day state tournament, on a hot Saturday, May 21, 2005, at Rivershore Sports Complex in Hebron. They finished the season with a record of 33-6. First baseman Holly Dorning was state tournament MVP.
“I remember how much fun we had because we had all played together for a while and we were really good friends,” Dorning said. “Plus, I got to have my name on two banners.”
Shortstop Rachel Meier, right fielder Sarah Nielander and left fielder Trista Wolfe were named all-tournament in 2005.
“It was the first state championship of any kind at Holy Cross,” said Trame, a 1981 Holy Cross graduate. “The boys’ basketball team lost in the state finals in 1965, so we were the first to get to the final and win.”
The Indians repeated in 2006. They were dethroned the next year, but returned with another state title in 2008. They began the 2005 march with a 16-3 win over Scott. They beat Lloyd 10-7 in the winners’ bracket semifinals, but lost 8-1 to NewCath, knocking them into the losers’ bracket. They beat Lloyd a second time, 9-2, setting up a rematch with NewCath in the final. The Indians won the first game, 16-14, forcing a second game.
The Indians piled onto each other in the infield after shutting out the Thoroughbreds 5-0 in the championship final. It was 1-0 in the top of the sixth but the Indians added a run on a base hit by Dorning, and scored three in the seventh. Nielander’s RBI single made it 3-0. A single by second baseman Amber Martin and Meier’s RBI grounder plated the fourth run. Webster’s run-scoring single set the final score. She retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh.
“The last out was a fly ball to Trista Wolfe in left,” Trame said. “I tackle Abby behind the pitcher’s mound, nearly crushing her, and a dog pile ensues. I was saying, ‘Are you OK. Are you OK?’ I was worried.”
Webster was too thrilled to complain. “Through the excitement, I was at the bottom, alright,” she said. “But we were so happy.”
Wolfe was one of three standout sisters along with catcher Tiffany Wolfe and third baseman Taylor Wolfe. All three homered that season. Taylor had three. Nielander led with seven homers, followed by Dorning with six. Dorning had a team-best 65 RBI.
Left-center fielder Shannon Donnelly, the leadoff hitter, led the team with a .621 batting average. Dorning was next at .591. The Indians had five hitters with averages above .500, including two of the Wolfe sisters. Right-center fielder Liz Laws batted .534. With Laws, Trame deployed a roving shift in every state tournament game against NewCath, putting Laws in shallow left or behind second base, depending on the batter. “Sometimes, I’d be 10 feet from the pitcher. It gave teams a little more to think about,” Laws said.
“I think it messed them up,” said coach Trame. “We also had a different home plate umpire in the second NewCath final, and the strike zone changed. It got bigger after the girls had to groove pitches. Abby was throwing it high in the second game.”
The Indians played the season with heavy hearts. Lauren Yeager, a sister of Holy Cross assistant coach Tiffany Yeager, died in a car accident the previous June. The team played with Lauren Yeager’s initials, LY, on their shirt sleeves.
“It was an emotional deal when we won it. I remember hugging Tiffany for a long time,” Trame said. “It’s definitely a year I’ll never forget.”