The softball and baseball state tournaments don't start until May 24 and 26, but local teams learned the paths they will have to take to championship glory during the IHSAA tournament draw shows Sunday night.
This will be the first time the tournaments have been played since 2019, as the 2020 spring seasons were canceled because of COVID-19. But even now, the effects of the pandemic still linger: The softball championship games will be played at Center Grove instead of Purdue's Bittinger Stadium, because the university could not play host to an event expected to draw a large crowd of spectators.
Leo (11-3, 2-0 NE8) was one of the softball teams to reach the last state finals at Bittinger Stadium back in 2019, but this time around the Lions are a younger team set to face opponents they aren't familiar with, as they are slated to open the state tournament against Snider (0-10) in the Class 4A DeKalb Sectional.
“There are a couple teams in our sectional that we don't get the opportunity to play during the year, Northrop and Snider, so to start with one of those teams could be an advantage, could be a disadvantage,” said Leo coach Ben Shappell, whose Lions are the only local Class 4A team to receive votes in the state poll (they are ranked 23rd). “It's interesting to start with a team that you haven't seen during the year. So we'll have to go to some of their games and see what they're about before we play them.”
The winner of Leo-Snider will advance to face the winner of DeKalb vs. Carroll (10-4). East Noble (8-2, 2-0 NE8) and Northrop (8-2, 1-0 SAC) each received a bye in the DeKalb Sectional, and the winner of that semifinal matchup with advance to the finals.
Homestead (5-10), which won five straight sectionals leading up to last year's canceled season, is paired with Columbia City (12-4, 0-2 NE8) in the first round of the Class 4A Columbia City Sectional.
Class 3A No. 8 West Noble (9-1-1, 3-0 NECC) opens the Jimtown Sectional against NorthWood (5-7). Bellmont (9-4, 1-1 NE8), which is ranked 12th in 3A, received a bye in the Norwell Sectional and will open against Mississinewa (1-8). Host Norwell (8-2, 1-1) will face Heritage (7-6).
Bishop Dwenger (10-2, 1-0 SAC) will open the Angola Sectional against Concordia (2-10, 1-1 SAC).
Leo also has an interesting draw on the baseball side: the Class 3A No. 4 Lions (14-1, 2-0 NE8) will open the Garrett Sectional against SAC-leading Bishop Dwenger (10-4, 8-0 SAC).
Homestead (14-3), ranked No. 9 in Class 4A, will face South Side in the first round of the Huntington North Sectional. In both 2018 and 2019, the Spartans fell to the Archers despite coming into the postseason with a superior win-loss record.
“At our school, because we're a bigger school, you don't usually have a lot of underclassmen who play varsity, but this (senior) class is special in that two years ago, we had four or five or six sophomores starting and getting a decent amount of playing time. So it's nice to see these guys actually get a postseason,” Homestead coach Nick Byall said.
“South Side's had our number the last two years, in the last two sectionals we've actually played. Coach (Ryan) Dellinger is a great coach and he does a great job with those guys. So we know we're going to have our hands full to try to get them this time.”
Huntington North (4-8, 1-0 NE8) will face North Side (1-8, 1-5 SAC) in the other first-round game at Huntington North. Wayne (3-10, 2-5 SAC) and Columbia City (4-7, 0-1 NE8) each received a bye and will face each other in the semifinals.
Carroll (12-3) and Snider (8-4, 4-3 SAC) will meet in the first round of the Class 4A Carroll Sectional. The winner will move on to face DeKalb (7-6, 1-0 NE8).
Key sectional matchups
Northridge: Warsaw vs. Goshen
DeKalb: DeKalb vs. Carroll, Leo vs. Snider, East Noble vs. Northrop (semifinals)
Columbia City: Columbia City vs. Homestead
Jimtown: West Noble vs. NorthWood
Angola: Concordia vs. Bishop Dwenger
Norwell: Norwell vs. Heritage, Mississinewa vs. Bellmont
Westview: LaVille vs. Central Noble
Eastside: Churubusco vs. South Adams, Adams Central vs. Bluffton, Woodlan vs. Eastside; Bishop Luers bye to semifinals
Wabash: Whitko vs. Manchester
Carroll: Carroll vs. Snider, East Noble vs. Northrop, DeKalb bye to semifinals
Huntington North: South Side vs. Homestead
Wawasee: Lakeland vs. Wawasee
Garrett: Angola vs. Bishop Luers, Garrett vs. Concordia, Leo vs. Bishop Dwenger
Bellmont: Marion vs. Norwell, Mississinewa vs. Heritage, Bellmont vs. Oak Hill
Eastside: Churubusco vs. Bluffton, South Adams vs. Woodlan, Adams Central vs. Woodlan
Wabash: Whitko vs. Manchester
Fremont: Elkhart Christian vs. Blackhawk Christian, Fremont vs. Lakewood Park Christian