Western wins first state softball title

Written on 06/10/2024
Patrick Munsey

George, Linn, Garber bring Panthers a championship

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Pitching and defense win ballgames. That's the old adage, and it endures because it is true. The Western Lady Panthers proved it on June 8 as they won the school's first Indiana state softball championship.

And they did it with an amazing pitching performance, a timely hit, and an acrobatic defensive save. Pitching and defense, indeed.

Western entered the title game with a 29-2 record, facing a Tri-West Bruins squad that had amassed a 28-6 record for a record third consecutive trip to the state finals. The Lady Panthers made sure Tri-West set another record: a third consecutive state finals loss.

They did it, in large part, because of freshman Lucy George, who pitched a game for the ages. She allowed just two hits in the game, and severely limited the number of balls in play by striking out an eye-popping 16 batters.

That's right. There were only five defensive plays needed to secure the win for Western, and one of them was highlight-reel worthy.

With the game down to its final out, Tri-West's Danica James managed a single against George, bringing the winning run to the plate. The Bruins' Ava Hensley had a chance to be the hero. She stroked a line drive off a 1-1 heater from Goerge.

But Western centerfielder Kamryn Garber had other ideas. She sprinted for the ball, diving forward into short center and securing the win.

The defensive gem cemented George's place in history as one of the best state finals pitching performances. She was perfect through her first three innings of work, striking out the first five batters she faced. She only walked one batter on the night, and only allowed one runner to reach second base.

Tri-West proved it was worthy of being in the final game with a similarly impressive performance. The Lady Panthers only managed three hits against the Bruins' Audrey Lowry, who will pitch for NCAA softball powerhouse and 2024 national champion Oklahoma next year.

Sienna Stone and Brynley Erb both connected for singles during the game, but it was Chloe Linn's solo blast over the left field fence in the second inning that spelled the difference.

Linn was mobbed at home plate by her teammates; a celebration that proved prophetic, as the Lady Panthers gathered around second base for another party following the last out of the game.

With the win, the Lady Panthers become the fourth state title team in Western history, joining the girls' golf team (2002), girls' basketball team (2014), and boys' baseball team (2012) as state champions.