INDIANAPOLIS — Capping off a fantastic postseason run with a dramatic come-from-behind victory, the Plainfield Quakers softball team took home its first-ever Class 4A state championship over Huntington North on Saturday night.
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A monstrous sixth inning from the Quakers stole the show over an impressive pitching and defensive performance by the Vikings, propelling Plainfield to a 3-1 victory.
“After my three years before this, I never thought this was coming at all,” Plainfield senior pitcher Courtney Collins said. “I was a little nervous coming out to the mound to end the game, but I had confidence in myself and my teammates.”
Collins gave up two doubles in the fourth after a scoreless three innings from both sides, allowing the Vikings to get on the scoreboard. The Quakers’ pitcher finished the game with nine strikeouts and allowed five hits in 26 Vikings at-bats.
“(Collins) was mixing it up real well keeping (Huntington) off balance,” Plainfield coach Brad Beaman said. “Except for the back-to-back doubles, I think they never really got a real good solid hit at any point.”
Down by one run heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, some doubt had crept into the Plainfield dugout. The Quakers had not gotten a hit off of Huntington North sophomore pitcher Erin Rethlake all night and when they did put the ball in play, the Vikings' defense stymied their efforts.
But a leadoff walk of Plainfield’s Brooke Bryant started an avalanche Huntington North could not escape from. Maggie Stahl singled past the Vikings' third baseman for the Quakers’ first hit of the night with no outs.
“Maggie kept us in it with the big hit and got things started for us,” Beaman said. “That’s what we pride ourselves with her. She is a great young lady.”
Mackenzie Jeffries struck out for the first out, but senior Hallie Johanningsmeier reached first on a slap bunt down the third base line and the bases were loaded.
Feeling the pressure of a full count, Rethlake walked Mackenzie Reeder, plating Bryant for the tying run. A wild pitch brought Stahl sliding into home from third and Plainfield held a 2-1 advantage.
Beaman then took a chance and went to a call normally reserved for when the bases are loaded. It is called the “Ritty,” named after assistant coach Ritty Maraldo who introduced the play a few years back.
With Johanningsmeier at third and Reeder at second, Beaman called for Reeder to steal third. Huntington North catcher Alyssa Grabner made the throw to second seeking a second out and Johanningsmeier came home for an insurance run. Reeder made it to third and the Vikings were then buried under an enormous amount of pressure.
Johanningsmeier was taken aback Grabner fell for the bait and made the errant decision.
“I believed in coach’s call and wasn’t nervous,” she said. “I just couldn’t believe she didn’t cover home. I just went for it and thought I just had to score.”
Huntington North walked back to its dugout stunned at the turn of events. The resilient Quakers shattered what looked to be a dominating win by the Vikings with half an inning to play and Huntington could not recover.
Collins took the mound and ended the Viking’s season with three consecutive Ks, two swinging and one looking. But afterward, with all of the excitement, she could not recall how that inning ended.
“I didn’t actually know I had three straight strikeouts, that’s awesome and amazing,” Collins said.
Plainfield won not on the back of one player throughout the postseason, but with a variety of players stepping up at crucial moments and that may be what defines this championship for the Quakers. It was a total team effort that brought them a state title.
“This win is huge for us because we were basically the underdogs this postseason and nobody would have thought that Plainfield could have been state champs,” Reeder said.
Beaman lauded praise on the squad for their efforts and was proud of the way they achieved their goal.
“They love each other and work hard for each other and stay close all the time,” he said. “I can’t put it into words of what they are like and how they do things, but they have fun and they are crazy scary when they are having fun.”
Quakers Athletic Director Dana Greene summed up what the championship meant for the Plainfield community, school, students, players and coaches.
“It’s big and it’s just huge,” he said. “Our girls have just lifted everybody up in the whole school. These are the kinds of things you build on and hope for the future. It is a tribute to Brad and his staff and a big tribute to Plainfield High School.”