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Cascade softball wins school's first state title: 'It'll sink in in a little bit.'

WEST LAFAYETTE — On more than one occasion in the IHSAA Class 2A softball state championship game between Cascade and Lapel, Grace Gray found herself in a jam. While the junior Ball State commit had mostly cruised through her opposition this season, the Cascade ace was on the mound in the biggest game of her life.

Gray's first test against the Bulldogs came in the bottom of the fourth inning. After recording an out to start the frame, Gray walked two straight batters.

The Cadets only held a 4-0 lead, and Lapel saw its first chance of the game to strike. Gray responded by striking out the next two batters on six pitches.

"At first, my mind goes a little crazy, I get a little nervous," Gray said. "I just have to take a few deep breaths and think to myself, 'I know what I can do. I know I can bounce back from this.' ... You just dial in and block it out."

Gray was cruising with a no-hitter heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, but standout Lapel senior Krystin Davis bunted for a single. A few batters later, Bulldogs junior Laylah Gore hit an RBI infield single to finally put Lapel on the scoreboard.

A throwing error on the same play put the score at 4-2 with one out in the bottom of the sixth. Gray was once again battling trouble.

Her rebuttal was the same as before, two straight strikeouts to end the inning.

Cadets coach Brett Taber said Gray is the best pitcher he has ever coached. He said he wasn't worried for a second about the Cadets' 4-0 lead slipping away from them.

Gray remained on the mound heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, just three outs away from securing the first state championship in Cascade's history. She said her key to success in high pressure situations is to try and intimidate her opponent.

Strikeout, groundout, strikeout: mission accomplished.

The capacity crowd donning the Cadets' signature light blue erupted while those on the softball diamond did the same. Gray dropped her glove and ran straight for junior catcher Amberlyn Culp as the two embraced.

Gray finished her complete game with 13 strikeouts, allowing two hits, one run and three walks along the way.

Gray said she watched the state finals as a freshman and thought to herself, "I wish I could go to a state championship one day."

"I just won it," Gray said. "It's crazy, I didn't think it would happen, but here I am ... I'm still trying to grasp that it's real life."

So was Taber.

"It'll sink in in a little bit," Taber said. "It's hard to believe."

He said throughout his 42 years as a coach, the win against Lapel was the most fun he's ever had on a softball diamond.

"Everbody's got that goal, it just never happened," Taber said. " ... It's a dream. I just let them play the game, sit back and watch."

Cascade Cadets Grace Gray (9) and Cascade Cadets Suzy Moore (29) celebrate after the IHSAA Class 2A softball state championship, Friday, June 7, 2024, at Purdue University’s Bittinger Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. Cascade Cadets won 4-2.
Cascade Cadets Grace Gray (9) and Cascade Cadets Suzy Moore (29) celebrate after the IHSAA Class 2A softball state championship, Friday, June 7, 2024, at Purdue University’s Bittinger Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. Cascade Cadets won 4-2.

Sophomore Lacie Godby said she and Gray have been playing softball together on and off since elementary school. Godby has been in enrolled in the Mill Creek Community School Corporation all her life.

She said she never could have imagined being a key contributor in the corporation's first state championship. Even further beyond her belief was seeing numerous Cadets fans in the stands at Purdue's Billinger Stadium wearing shirts with her last name and number on the back.

"Having my family there was just amazing," Godby said. " ... It was really cool."

Godby was the anchor of the Cadets offense against Lapel, setting the tone early with a two-RBI single in the first inning. She followed that with a double later in the contest.

Finishing their season 30-2 with a state championship trophy-shaped cherry on top, the Cadets are preparing to move from 2A to 3A next season. Godby responded with a resounding 'yes,' when asked if Cascade could win another in 2025.

Taber likes the Cadets' chances too, citing the lineup as proof; none of the Cascade batters were older than juniors and none younger than sophomores.

"I'm not gonna promise a state championship, but we'll be able to compete in 3A," Taber said.

Let this one sink in first.

Cascade Cadets Grace Gray (9) is announced into the starting lineup during the IHSAA Class 2A softball state championship against the Lapel Bulldogs, Friday, June 7, 2024, at Purdue University’s Bittinger Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. Cascade Cadets won 4-2.
Cascade Cadets Grace Gray (9) is announced into the starting lineup during the IHSAA Class 2A softball state championship against the Lapel Bulldogs, Friday, June 7, 2024, at Purdue University’s Bittinger Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. Cascade Cadets won 4-2.

Contact Kyle Smedley with comments via email at KSmedley@Gannett.com or via X @KyleSmedley_.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Cascade softball beats Lapel for IHSAA Class 2A state championship