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Fans savor Lapel softball team's run to Class 2A state title game

Jun. 7—LAPEL — The Lapel softball team's surprise run to the Class 2A state championship game has been fueled, in part, by a sense of connection to its community that has grown with each postseason win.

Thursday evening, the team gathered at its home field to greet fans and celebrate that connection for a final time before heading to Purdue's Bittinger Stadium in West Lafayette to take on top-ranked Cascade.

"It's just been an unbelievable ride for us," said the team's coach, A.J. Balser. "All season long we've had lots of fans at our games, but as we've continued to move on throughout the state tournament, we've gotten even more and more backing. It's been amazing."

Supporting the team has come easily to many residents, who point to the players' hard work in the classroom and on the field as key reasons for their success.

"We know the students, and we just think they're good kids," said Joyce Humphrey, a Lapel native and occasional substitute teacher at the high school. "We just embrace anything they can do for the community and for themselves to have fun."

The players — led by the team's lone senior, shortstop Krystin Davis — expressed appreciation for the backing they've received. Following the Lady Bulldogs' sectional victory over Alexandria and their regional win over Madison-Grant, a busload of fans accompanied the team to Warsaw to cheer them on against Hebron.

Local businesses have contributed as well, providing free dinners and other amenities that Balser said have helped the players enjoy the run even more.

"There have been a lot of people working behind the scenes that have really brought the community together," Davis said. "They've given us the confidence that they're there to support us."

"It gives us a lot of confidence to know that no matter what, people have our back," added junior starting pitcher Karlie Jannings.

The sense of excitement following the team to the state's biggest stage is reminiscent of recent postseason runs by the boys basketball team, which won a state title in 2016, and the girls basketball team, which made its first appearance in the state championship game in 2023.

"Our community, it's unconditional," said Matt Boles, the principal at Lapel High School. "These girls, they're just good people and they're easy to root for."

The softball team weathered some early season adversity — including a loss to district rival Frankton — to capture Madison County tournament, sectional, regional and semistate championships. All of those are program firsts. Lapel has won Friday's title game matchup against Cascade, the top-ranked team in the state, represents one last piece of unfinished business, according to Balser.

"We still have a job to do and we're going to do our best to complete that task," he said. "Don't get me wrong — it's an awesome feeling and experience to be able to get to where we're at, but we're going to give it everything we've got to finish the job."

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