WEST LAFAYETTE – The BIG prize.
That’s what the Bremen and South Bend St. Joseph’s softball teams are set to play for come Saturday.
The pair of area powers will take part in the IHSAA State Finals slated at Bittinger Stadium on the Purdue University campus.
No. 1 ranked Bremen will face unranked Speedway in the Class 2-A finale at 1:30 p.m. The Lions, who were state runner-up in 2008, sport a 26-3 record. Speedway sits at 21-6-1 on the season.
St. Joe, ranked No. 4, will face No. 1 and defending state champion New Palestine in the Class 3-A state championship contest at 4:30 p.m. The Indians, who are making the first State Finals appearance in program history, are 25-5. New Palestine, which has won four state championships to rank second in Indiana softball history, is 29-1.
Bremen is led by star Erin Coffel. The slugging sophomore leads the state in home runs with 22 and in runs scored with 73. She is third in the state with 58 RBI and is hitting .600.
Junior pitcher Kaelyn Shively has 21 wins in the circle for the Lions, whose roster has just three seniors.
Bremen, which finished in third place in the NIC at 10-2, has won 18 of its last 19 games. The lone loss was a 5-1 setback to St. Joe back in April.
Mike Huppert, a 1981 Bremen graduate, is the head coach of the Lions.
St. Joe will face a daunting task in its season finale. The Indians must find a way to stop a powerful New Palestine offense, led by star Ashley Prange. The Dragons have won 19 games this season by the 10-run rule and have outscored their foe 65-2 in the state tournament.
Senior shortstop Prange, who committed to Ohio State as an 8th grader, has 17 home runs and a state best 70 RBI this season. She is the state’s all-time leader in home runs with 46 and is batting .596 this year. Prange was selected earlier this week as the Gatorade Player of the Year in Indiana.
The Indians, who are led by coach Earl Keith, will counter with Lauren Sandor. The sophomore pitcher has been sensational with 24 wins and 249 strikeouts in 170 2/3 innings of work this season. St. Joe has allowed just two runs in its last eight games with six shutouts.
Senior catcher Megan Welsh is the big bat in the St. Joe lineup with 32 RBI.