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Lady Norse make history: Northfield tops Clay City, 3-1, in state softball finals

By Eric Christiansen

It was easy as 1, 2, 3…and 4, 7, and 11.

The unranked Northfield softball team capped off an improbable postseason run by defeating six of the top 11 teams in Class 1A to win its first state title, defeating No. 7 Clay City 3-1 in the state championship game Friday night, June 11, at Center Grove High School.

Propelled by two late homeruns from senior Addi Baker, and a three-hitter by pitcher Abby Hunter, Northfield came back from a 1-0 deficit in the top of the sixth inning to capture the championship.

“I was just happy that I finally hit a ball hard,” Addi Baker said about her first home run. “The second one was even better. We scored two runs and had a lead in the top of the seventh, so that was even better.”

“She showed up at the right time,” Addi’s coach and father Brandon Baker said. “It’s unbelievable to know that they did what they did and how they did it. They battled when we were down, just like they have done all year. They have fought, they scratched, they clawed, and found a way. Unbelievable.”

After 3 1/2 innings of scoreless softball, Clay City struck first in the bottom of the fourth inning.

With one out and two runners on base, Elyssa Secrest drove in a run with a single to centerfield, scoring Hannah Harris, to give the Eels a 1-0 lead.

Clay City loaded the bases, still with one out, but Abby Hunter set the next two batters down, one on a pop up, and the third out on a fly out to centerfield.

Northfield, meanwhile, had trouble with Secrest on the mound, who allowed just three hits and struck out 11 batters, but Addi Baker put a stop to that.

Baker led off the top of the sixth inning with a homerun on the first pitch from Secrest to tie the game at 1-1 giving Northfield the momentum they had been looking for all game.

Two batters later, Kyra Kennedy singled and later moved to third on a single from Kenzie Baer, but the Norse weren’t able to capitalize.

Abby Hunter put the Eels down in order in the bottom of the sixth.

Ainsley Dale led off the top of the seventh inning with a bunt single before Secrest struck out Christine Kowalszuk and Ella Hunter.

But Addi Baker struck again, and again on the first pitch, connecting on a 2-run homerun over left field fence, to give the Norse a 3-1 lead.

Clay City’s Sophie Moshos led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a double, bringing the tying run to the plate.

Abby Hunter recorded a ground out and a fly out, and on the seventh pitch to Crysta Koehler, made a diving catch on a short pop up to get the out, the win, and the state championship.

Despite giving up just three hits, Hunter said she was glad to overcome a few struggles to get the win.

“After that first run, it kind of got in my head, but I slowed down and said, ‘ok, Abby, you cannot let your nerves get the best of you right now. Pull it together,’ and I finally pulled it together.”

Coach Baker echoed Hunter’s thought process.

“Abby is such a competitor that I knew she was going to get it done,” he said. The furthest thing from my mind was her folding under pressure. She’s been here before – the whole tournament.

“We weren’t panicked,” he continued. “We started to make a much better approach at the plate as the game went on, and we put hits together when we needed to.”

Ainsley Dale, who scored on Addi Baker’s seventh-inning homerun was thrilled when she saw the hit that led to the championship.

“When she hit it, I knew it was gone,” Dale said. “Coach Baker was jumping in the air. It was so exciting.”

Senior Kyra Kennedy, who was the hero in Northfield’s semi-state game against Cowan, added her excitement.

“It’s just unbelievable,” she said. “All the hard work that we’ve put in, and we’re here. We made it our final goal, and I couldn’t imagine any better way to get out of high school.”

“What a feeling it is for these girls,” Coach Baker said. “They battled. They are excited. Unbelievable.”

Addi Baker led Northfield at the plate going 3-4 with two homeruns and driving all three runs in.

Kennedy, Abby Hunter, Kenzie Baer, and Dale each were 1-3 with Dale scoring one run.
Northfield finished the championship season with a 20-9 record, 6-3 in Three Rivers Conference play, and 7-0 in the Class 1A state tournament.

Posted on 2021 Jun 15