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The Journal Gazette

Friday, May 26, 2017 9:30 pm

Leo wins 4th straight sectional softball crown

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

In his decade as Leo softball coach, Ben Shappell has seen few balls hit as far as the one Abbie Heischman launched Friday night.

The senior's home run over the scoreboard in left field highlighted the Lions' 8-0 win over Carroll in the championship game of the Carroll Sectional and helped clinch the program's fourth straight sectional title.

"This fence is 210 (feet) so that's a shot and no wind to help it, either," Shappell said. "Yeah, she crushed it."

The two-run blast from Leo's No. 3 hitter made it 3-0 in the third inning and set the tone for a superb all-around performance from the Lions, who outhit the Chargers 12-4.

"I think that home run gave us a lot of momentum to hit some more," Heischman said. "The score skyrocketed after that, so I think that gave us a little motivation."

Leo's shortstop couldn't recall hitting any ball that traveled that distance in a game. The swing came with two strikes, to boot.

"I just let it go, and it felt really good," Heischman said. "That one went pretty far. I wasn't thinking I was going to get anything good, and I got one pretty much right down the middle, so that was pretty good."

What was also good was the pitching of sophomore Mackenzie Rust, who went five innings and had five strikeouts.

"Oh, she does a good job," Shappell said. "She can throw it past kids and just get those nice, easy liners or ground balls."

The Chargers, who were technically the visitors due to how the bracket shook out, put together their best rally in the third. With the bases loaded and one out, however, Rust struck out Madison Sechrest looking and got Megyn Pfeiffer to strike out swinging.

"Sometimes I think she gets a little anixous and loses a bit of focus," Shappell said of Rust, "but when she's focused she does a good job, and she did a great job of getting out of a tough spot that inning."

Another standout for Leo was Makayla Hissong, batting ninth in the order. She went 2 for 3 with two RBI singles, one in the first inning and the other in the fourth.

A run-scoring wild pitch by Carroll starter Kirsten Landez gave the Lions a 5-0 lead in the fifth, and they ended any doubts with a two-run double from freshman Aaliyah Andrews later in the inning. Andrews then advanced to third on a throw and scored on a throwing error.

"There's still some things we can improve on," Shappell said. "We had a few people that didn't get to the right spots defensively, and it didn't affect us, but it may affect us in the future. We're going to have to get better to continue this run."

Carroll coach Cassie Antos credited Leo for being an "awesome team."

"They have a good program," Antos said. "They're solid defensively and offensively, and they outhit us. We were hitting the ball in the gaps but just to people."

As for the Chargers, Antos said she will fondly remember her girls' growth this season.

"We've come a long way," Antos said. "We started off 0-5, I believe. We've grown from the beginning to the end. The overall environment has been awesome and really set a tone for following years."

cgoff@jg.net