By Justin Whitaker
INDIANAPOLIS — No single Tri-West softball player was responsible for its first state championship— it took the entire roster rising to the occasion at different times.
All 15 members of the roster and two coaches willed the Bruins to the school’s first title in a girls’ sport Saturday afternoon.
In the IHSAA Class 3A state championship game at Ben Davis, Tri-West used some late-game heroics to beat the Yorktown Tigers 7-4. The Bruins got nine hits from seven different players in the ultimate display of a team victory.
“Really for us, we’ve had the real definition of the team,” Tri-West coach Stacey Rogers said. “If someone can’t get the job done, someone else just steps up right behind them and supports them.”
Senior Kaitlyn Settlemoir was one of two Bruins to notch two hits on the day. She had an RBI single in the third inning to put Tri-West ahead, 2-1. In a game that saw five lead changes and three ties, the senior knew she could rely on her team.
“When one girl gets down, we pick her up as soon as we can,” Settlemoir said. “That’s the best thing about this team, they’ll never let you down. Our motto is, ‘Make history, don’t let up.’ That’s what we do, if we get down we are going to keep going.”
Staring at a 4-3 deficit in the sixth inning with two outs and the bases empty, a senior provided one of the biggest moments of the game.
Senior Taylor Heath sent a shot to centerfield that hit the fence and just barely missed going over. The hit provided the final spark to start the Bruins end-of-the-game blaze.
“It was a great feeling,” Heath said. “There’s nothing better than a nice, sweet hit like that.”
Rogers then brought junior Sydney Schrack in to pinch hit. Schrack stepped into the pressure-filled moment and responded by blasting a grounder in-between the pitchers legs, over second base and into centerfield.
“I had one job and I was determined to get that job done,” Schrack said. “I wanted to win just as bad as everyone else.”
On the very next at-bat, junior Samme Miller capitalized on the momentum and provided the go-ahead RBI double to put Tri-West in front for good at 5-4 in the sixth inning. Miller said she thought of how badly she wanted to make a play for her team before stepping to the plate.
“We’re friends, not just teammates,” Miller said. “I cannot say one bad thing about anyone on the team. Everyone is a friend, it’s absolutely awesome.”
Miller’s double ended the inning after she brought the two runners in and got tagged trying to get to third base.
“I usually would be mad about getting out, but I scored the runs so I couldn’t be happier,” said Miller, who had two hits. “I did my job and made a difference. That was my goal before the game, to make a difference.”
After a scoreless sixth inning by Yorktown, sophomore Claire Johnson finally had her moment to lift the team in the seventh.
With two outs and one runner on base, Johnson was 0-for-3 as she entered the batter’s box. The standout sophomore homered to centerfield and gave her team the needed cushion at 7-4.
“I knew immediately,” Johnson said. “I had that feeling, you just hit it hard and it goes.”
It was a moment that kids grow up dreaming of — hitting a home run to help your team win the state finals.
“I hit a grand slam last year in our sectional championship, but this is definitely more exciting,” Johnson said beaming.
The Bruins’ victory especially puts multiple exclamation points on a 25-4 season for the six seniors — Heath, Settlemoir, Kari Sellers, Alyssa Clark and Taylor Baggett.
“Being my senior year, how better is it than to win state,” Heath said. “There is nothing else better than that.”
“Senior year, last game of my high school career, it’s the best to go out with a win and we did it,” Settlemoir said.
For Rogers, the title was payoff for a lifetime spent working towards this goal.
“I’ve worked since I was 7-years-old on this, my family has sacrificed like these kids have sacrificed,” she said. “Playing travel ball, giving up summer, money for hotels, softball is what my whole life is. When they ask me to write something fun and interesting people wouldn’t know about you, I’m softball, it’s what I do.”
Tri-West’s softball team debuted at the state finals and made the 22-minute drive back to Lizton with the trophy in hand.
“This cannot be real,” Miller said. “I would have never dreamed that we would get here and get this far. And we’re here and we made it… I’m just at a loss for words, I can’t describe the feeling that I’m having right now.”