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Lions softball returns to state with same roar, different bite

By Eric Dutkiewicz, 06/06/19, 4:00PM EDT

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LEO-CEDARVILLE, Ind. – When the Leo softball plays for the 4A state championship game Saturday night, a whole new crop of Lady Lions will experience the familiar fields of the IHSAA State Finals.

While it’s been five years since the Leo has advanced to state, it will be the third time in 6 years Leo has gone this far in the season. Leo won the state title in 2014 and were state runners-up in 2015.

 

“I remember going down in 6th grade and supporting them,” junior 3rd base Morgan Stuckey tells ParkviewSportsMedicine.com. “We’re doing it for each other, and for our seniors. We really want to go out with a bang.”

Those trips to state were in Class 3A. The IHSAA Success Factor moved the Lions up to Class 4A after 2015, and has kept them there so far. Even with bigger schools and new competition, Leo finds itself once again in the title game.

“I don’t think people expected for us to get this far as quickly as we did,” head coach Ben Shappell says. “That’s a great attribute to the girls is that they’ve been able to fight and really want this. To beat those schools that are 3-, 4- and 5-times bigger than we are really says a lot.”

These Leo Lions (25-1) are different than previous teams, Shappell says, emphasizing power over speed. And overpowering opponents they have, outscoring opponents 256-14 in their 26 games this year. Of their 25 wins, 16 were shutouts and 12 ended with a 10-run mercy rules.

“We always say One Heart, One Beat,” senior Haley Hines adds. “To be able to get our shot at shows that our hard work paid off and that we’re a force to be reckoned with.”

Over the last 13 seasons as coach, Shappell and his staff have cultivated a winning program that extends all the way down to up-and-coming players in nearby elementary schools and youth travel leagues.

“We’ve got great feeder programs that are bringing the kids to us and they can really work on things other programs might not get to because those [youth]coaches are doing fundamentals that high school coaches might have to focus on.”

Leo faces Center Grove for the IHSAA 4A Softball State Championship at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Bittinger Stadium on the campus of Purdue University. Video broadcasts include FOX Sports Indiana, IHSAAtv.org. An internet audio-only broadcast is available on CG Sports Network.

Leo is one of 26 high schools that partners with Parkview Sports Medicine for athletic training, sports performance, nutrition, athletic rehabilitation and orthopedic services for student-athletes. Learn more at ParkviewSportsMedicine.com.