ELKHART — Concord welcomed a surprise guest to its dugout during practice the night before its Class 4A Elkhart Sectional softball championship showdown against Northridge.
Now that guest will have some shiny new company.
The Minutemen clawed to a 4-2 upset of the fourth-ranked and two-time defending champion Raiders in the Friday, May 30, title game at Central High School. It’s Concord’s first sectional crown in 27 years, and it comes after assistant coach Mike Jackowiak brought the 1987 trophy out to practice Thursday.
"Now we’ll be able to bring ours out next year,” junior pitcher RaeAnn Miller said after striking out seven, scattering four singles and getting errorless play from her defense for the complete-game win. “It’s pretty unbelievable.”
“I wouldn’t have known it had been that long until Mike brought that trophy out,” said Dawn Austin, who is in just her second season as head coach. “I mean, that’s really long. That’s back when I played.”
The Minutemen (21-8) got timely hitting from multiple sources on their way to solving Northridge senior ace Haley Nixon (23-3), who had fired her third no-hitter of the season earlier in the sectional.
Senior Sabrina Scherer lined a two-out, run-scoring double to left field in the first inning to give Concord a lead it never relinquished, and sophomore McKenzie Loge made it 2-0 in the second inning when she smacked a two-out, run-scoring single to left-center.
“This is what we’ve been working for, and what I always thought this team could do,” Scherer said.
The Raiders (25-3) closed to 2-1 in the fourth on the first of Nixon’s two RBIs.
But the Minutemen picked up single runs yet again in the fifth and the sixth for a 4-1 advantage. Loge’s one-out double set the stage for an unearned run in the fifth, then senior Olivia Hess singled home a run in the sixth.
Hess, Loge and Scherer finished with two hits apiece among Concord’s seven.
“We went up there with confidence. That’s the only way to go up there against (Nixon),” Hess said.
“We said that we had to attack her,” Austin said. “Swing at three pitches, and if you do that, you’re goint to have a better chance of being successful. We were scrapping, getting them one at a time, and it was all the way through the lineup.”
“Concord made the the pitches, came up with the hits and made the plays they needed to make,” Northridge coach Bo O’Dell said. “We didn’t do those things as well, and the game’s really that simple.”
The Raiders graduate eight seniors, including seven who started Friday. All of those seven plan to play collegiate sports, six of them softball.
It’s a group that stormed its way to an 81-7 record with three Northern Lakes Conference titles and two regional titles over the last three years.
The Minutemen now face No. 3-ranked host Penn (25-4) in a regional championship Tuesday.
The Kingsmen crushed Concord 13-1 on April 29.
Of course, that was four days after Northridge beat the Minutemen 6-0. Since then, Concord has downed the Raiders 3-1 and 4-2.
4A Elkhart Sectional
Concord 4, Northridge 2
Concord 110 011 0 — 4 7 0
Northridge 000 101 0 — 2 4 1
RaeAnn Miller (W, 15-6; 7 strikeouts) and Sabrina Scherer; Haley Nixon (L, 23-3; 3 strikeouts) and Taylor Long.
Concord: Hits — McKenzie Loge 2, Sabrina Scherer, Olivia Hess 2, Jada Iavagnilio. 2B — Loge, Scherer. RBI — Loge, Scherer, Hess. Runs — Loge, Jenny Miller, Scherer, Tori Braddock.
Northridge: Hits — Hannah Kistler, Nixon, Jordan Yoder, Whitney Yoder. RBI — Nixon 2. Runs — Kistler, Brianne O’Dell.
Records: Concord 21-8, Northridge 25-3.
Next: Concord at Penn in 4A regional championship Tuesday, June 3, tentatively 7 p.m.