By JASON HADDIX
For the MC Weekly
---- — INDIANAPOLIS —The North Miami softball team’s historic run to the state championship game came to an end Saturday afternoon with the Warriors wearing the blue ribbon medals around their necks as they hoisted the trophy shaped liked the Hoosier State.
It took 10 innings to determine the Class A champion with top-ranked North Miami earning the come-from-behind victory 3-1 over the North Daviess Cougars.
The Warriors are now state champions.
“This is very special,” North Miami coach Rob Cooley said. “I haven’t experienced anything like this ever in school history. The support we had throughout the community was outstanding.”
North Miami (31-4) was in uncharted territory as the Warriors were playing in their first softball state championship game, and the win marked the first girls team state title in school history. The only other state crown went to the football team in the 1993 season.
“I really don’t know how to react right now — it hasn’t sunk in yet,” Cooley said. “For this community, for this school and Steve Linn, our athletic director, is retiring this year so it’s nice to see him be able to get this.”
The scored was 1-1 after the regulation seven innings and the teams played even for the next two then in the top of the 10th, the Warriors struck.
With one out, North Miami junior Josie Wood drew a four-pitch intentional walk, the fourth time in four at-bats North Daviess (18-12) pitched around the Warriors' best hitter.
Josie Knauff then stepped to the plate and on the second pitch the sophomore saw, she hit a high chopper that was misplayed by Cougars shortstop Jess Miller for her second error of the game.
“I just took off as fast as I could and said, ‘Please let me make it,’” said Knauff, who ended up at third base after the throw home.
Wood broke from first with the pitch to Knauff and never slowed down as the junior rounded second base, then third as the sped home for the game-winning run.
It was the second time Wood scored after being walked.
“In big games like this I will take a walk — I am not hitting to hit home runs,” Wood said. “If [the opponent] puts me on I have confidence in Josie Knauff and the rest of the lineup to come in and hit me around.”
In the sixth inning, the Indiana University commit was given the free pass and promptly stole second base. She came in to score the game-tying run when Alicyn Enyart dropped down a bunt that was fielded by the Sarah Fitzgerald, whose throw got away from the covering Morgan Wadsworth.
Enyart led North Miami with two hits.
“I just wanted to take good solid cuts and I knew it would get us somewhere,” she said.
Wood managed to reach base each of her five at-bats with a double in the first inning followed by four straight intentional walks along with a pair of stolen bases, which led to two runs scored.
She entered leading the team in nearly every offensive category, including batting average (.629), home runs (14), RBI (47) and hits (56).
“We knew we had to pitch around her,” North Daviess coach Jodi Graber-Berry said. “It is a sign of respect.”
The 5-foot-8 southpaw’s contributions were not just felt when she stepped to the plate, but when she also crossed the chalk lines of the pitcher's circle, as she tossed a complete game three hitter with 17 strikeouts and issued three walks.
“We weren’t aware of the rise ball,” North Daviess’ Tailon Graber said. “We were focusing on the down ball pitches and she came up with the rise ball and we were not ready for it so we were swinging.”
North Daviess' lone run came in the second and was unearned as a result of a fielding error.
Graber, the Cougars' starting pitcher, was able to keep the hot-hitting Warriors off balance for most the game. North Miami came in with a team batting average of .354 and scored an average of 8.15 runs per game.
North Miami will return all but two players from this season championship team. Savannah Davis, who had one hit and an RBI in four at-bats, is the lone starter the Warriors will be without, and Maricela Dickson is the other graduating senior.
“We have four or five girls on the sub list [Saturday] that have been out here practicing for the last four months that are going to be very valuable for this ball club in the future,” Cooley said. “I know we have girls to come up and take [the graduating seniors'] places.
“I think we will be very competitive again next year.”