INDIANAPOLIS - Sometimes the naiveté of youth can be a positive thing.
In the case of the Lakewood Park Christian softball team, not realizing that perhaps it would be difficult - if not impossible – to play for a second straight IHSAA Class A softball state championship after graduating four starters from a year ago, never really entered the young players' minds.
One year after connecting for just four hits in a 5-1 defeat to Tecumseh in the title game, the Panthers appeared to be a long shot to play for a second consecutive championship as they needed to replace players that accounted for three of those hits. But call it confidence, swagger, or simply not knowing what they didn't know, the Lakewood Park players never wavered in their expectation to win the 2012 championship. The Panthers (27-5) got a run across in their final at bat to beat Indianapolis Lutheran 3-2 on Saturday at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis to win the 2012 championship.
“I felt very confident in the team,” Panther pitcher Mikeila Boroff said. “I just knew that we got this far doing the things that we did and I had faith that we were going to keep doing that.”
Maybe having a pitcher as good as Boroff contributed to the players' bravado.
The sophomore right-hander allowed just one earned run and struck out 10 Saints en route to winning her 27th game of the season.
“I've never been so proud of (Mikeila),” Lakewood Park catcher Jaclyn Delagrange said. “She wanted this more than anything.”
Part of high school athletics is replacing seniors each season. But when a talented group, such as the one that Lakewood Park had last year departs, the expectations tend to drop toward more realistic levels.
Not with these kids.
“We've got to turn the page every year,” Panther coach David Carnahan said. “We lose great young ladies every year. We hate to do it, but you lose them and we look forward every single year.”
Last year Carnahan could rely on Alyssa Koorsen at shortstop. She was so talented and reliable that she now plays for Purdue. However, on Saturday, Koorsen's replacement could not have performed much better.
Junior Courtney Sliger, who did not even play in the 2011 championship game, belted out three hits in four at bats, drove in a pair of runs and even scored once. The Panthers fielded just a pair of seniors on their 17-player roster and lack of experience never really showed.
“Our young team was just as prepared as an older team,” senior Brett Taulbee said. “We are just as good as any team that is full of seniors.”