WEST LAFAYETTE – Aaliyah Andrews opened the Leo softball team's night with a single and the Lions never stopped hitting. Leo pitcher Ashley Miller made sure semistate opponent Crown Point never even got started.
The combined result of an offensive eruption and Miller's dominating performance in the circle was a runaway 11-1 victory over the Bulldogs at West Lafayette Harrison on Saturday, a win that ended with a delirious scrum near second base and the Lions holding the semistate championship plaque for the third time in school history and the first since 2015.
It's the first semistate title for any player currently on the Leo roster and gives the Lions (25-1) a chance to win their second softball state championship with a victory against Center Grove next Saturday. Leo has won six in a row.
“It feels honestly so amazing,” said Andrews, a junior who has committed to play softball at Indiana. “Ever since I was a freshman when I came to Leo, it was one of my biggest dreams, I always wanted to go to state.
“We have worked so hard throughout the whole season to get here. Every single game we've taken one game at a time and now we're here, it's crazy.”
Andrews got Leo's offensive machine, which had sputtered a bit late in the season, rolling with an infield single on the first pitch of the game. She stole second and scored when Kennedy Shade dumped a single into left, one of Shade's three hits.
The first-inning tally gave Leo a lead it would not relinquish, but it was nothing compared to the onslaught the Lions' offense unleashed in the late innings. It began in the fourth when, with the bases loaded, catcher Kiley Patterson rocketed a line drive off the wall in right for a three-run double and a 4-0 lead.
“We all got pumped up,” said Patterson, who had four RBI in the game and five for the day. “I knew I had to do my job. It felt great.”
The Lions added two runs in the sixth and five more in the seventh, but those were mostly ornamental as Miller made sure Crown Point never got close. The junior right-hander took a no-hitter into the seventh and eventually worked six-plus innings, striking out five to earn the victory.
Miller had pitched seven innings of one-run ball in the semifinal earlier in the day, but she showed no signs of fatigue in the nightcap, keeping the Bulldogs (29-5) off balance with a darting dropball.
“I knew I was going to be facing really good hitters, so I stayed focused the entire game,” said Miller, who also singled twice and scored twice. “I knew that it was going to be tough matchups the entire time and I just used my defense as best I could.
“We were just fired up, it really helped us with all the energy we had.”
Leo reached the final with a 2-1 victory over Penn in nine innings. Patterson drove in Kennedy Shade with a single in the ninth to send the Lions to the championship.
Lions coach Ben Shappell noted how calm and relaxed his team was between games, which likely contributed to the fast start in the championship matchup.
“Coming into this year, I knew this team was something special,” Shappell said, moments before getting doused with a celebratory shower from the Gatorade bucket.