From Left Field
By BOB SHRALUKA
It's the stuff that excites movie producers; that books are written about; that dreams are made of. "Hoosiers" in a softball uniform. The team that never wins the title, the team that's always a bridesmaid, the team that can't get out of its own way is suddenly — almost unexplicably — rolling along like some gigantic snowball, gaining more momentum along the way.
Here they are, folks, the Adams Central softball team that had never won a Sectional championship, now eyeball to eyeball with a State championship. Okay, the obstacle in the way is monster sized. But, hey, why not one more miracle in a tournament run full of miracles?
"It's unbelievable, just unbelievable," veteran AC softball Coach Cary Blake bubbled over the phone. "It's just so much fun; we're having a great ride."
A ride? It's become more like a rocket ship. Seventeen years without a Sectional win for Blake and now in year 18 there's a Sectional, a Regional and a Semistate prize for the trophy case.
"We've been close, seven or eight times in the (Sectional) final game, but then we'd play a Woodlan or a Luers and not make it," Blake said. "But this year we finally got over the hump and the girls began to believe; now they really believe."
Not only did this team carry the no-Sectional albatross, but not all that many weeks ago it had a record of 6-11. Yep, six wins, 11 losses. Ouch.
"Early on, we just weren't clicking; things weren't going right," Blake recalled. "Like Heritage beat us twice by one run. But now we've won 14 of our last 15.
"And you know, Leo came down here; they were 19-1 and could clinch the conerence. But our girls said we owed them one for the way they beat us last year. and we really took it to 'em, won 8-3. And our girls began to believe; that 's when it took off; it just went from there.
"Now we have so many girls contributing; there's always someone doing it for us."
The ACAC (Allen County Athletic Conference) is a solid softball league, and many of those teams get lumped together in Sectional pairings.
"We have good teams, good programs in our conference," Blake said. "We were fourth in our confernece this year and proud of it. And we alway have good teams in our Sectional. It makes it tough."
From fourth place in their league, the team which was 0-for-the-Sectional soon will be hopping on a bus and heading south looking to achieve what only one other AC team has accomplished: win a state championship. Looming ahead, though, is a monster of a task.
"South Putnam has won 53 in a row and their pitcher is going to IU," Blake said. "I'm not sure how we'll prepare for that (pitcher), but having a week gives us a little time. We'll see."
So the Jet set once again has the role of underdog. It's not as though Blake's girls aren't used to it. You gotta believe he says, just as AC's boys did when they won the school's first Sectional basketball crown just a few weeks ago.
All this is getting a little expensive for the school's athletic fund. "Yeh, the girls have been saying they want a banner (for the gym, which has none for softball)," Blake laughed. "I told them to be patient; you have to give Rick (Minnich, athletic director) some time."
A round of applause, please, for the Bellmont High School athletic department and others at the school involved in hosting the 3A Sectional and Regional tournaments the last couple of weeks.
With the Braves catching fire and rolling through five games into this weekend's Semistate match, it added something of a festive atmosphere to the two weekends. The weather was good, the crowds were large — and loud — most of the games were tight, and, well, it was just plain fun.
And with the Braves playing so well, a lot of people who wouldn't have traveled long distances got to see the games.
A ton of work is involved in preparing for and carrying through such a tournament; much more than is visible on the surface. And weather can provide a quick nightmare. It sure was nice, though, to have the two weekends — and Memorial Day's title game — at home.
Job well done!