The 2017 Crusaders softball team won the 2A State Championship with a 6-2 victory over Elwood. The Crusaders also were the Indiana Crossroads Conference champions and finished the season 26-4. Photo by David Leszcynski '09
By Beth Murphy, Director of Marketing Communications
The Scecina Crusaders were up just one run, 3-2, as the seventh and final inning of the 2017 State Championship softball game began. They hadn’t scored since the third inning when they put up three runs. Now they needed some insurance.
So what did Coach Cory Gray and the rest of the coaching staff tell them? Was there a big pep talk?
“No,” Gray said. “We didn’t tell them anything. They already know what to do.”
Sure enough, the experienced Crusaders scored three more runs and then held off the top-ranked Elwood Panthers in the bottom of the seventh to win their third IHSAA state championship on June 10 at Ben Davis High School.
Gray found himself the center of media hype before the game. His story is inspiring and emotional. In the summer of 2016, he had suffered a stroke that left him unable to walk, talk or move. Initially, the team members weren’t sure he would even survive. When they finally could visit him, they didn’t know if they would ever again see their coach on the softball field.
Ten months later, there he was, on his feet, coaching them to a state championship with the help of assistants Pat Miles, Brad Streeval and Michael Troutman. It was the Crusaders' third state title (2007, 2013, 2017) and the second under Gray, who led them to the state championship during his first season in 2013.
Gray’s journey from stroke to softball finals was the subject of a story and a video by the Indianapolis Star. But Gray wants to redirect the attention.
“It’s not about me,” he said during a phone call a few days after the game. “It’s about the girls. The girls kept saying they did it for me, but I don’t want that to be the story.”
One of Gray’s best memories of the championship game came with the Crusaders’ biggest hit of the day.
“When Emma Deery slid into third on that triple, and she looked at me with a whole mouthful of dirt,” Gray recalled. “There was a photo in the Star of her looking at me. It’s perfect, and she’s asking me, ‘Am I out?’ I said, ‘No! Stay on the base!’ “
Gray said he was nervous heading into the seventh.
Cassie Smith led off that final inning with a bloop single to the outfield and then Cali Burgess delivered a two-out infield single that hit off of third base. With two down and two on, Kaylyn Linder came to the plate and drove in both runners with a double in the gap. Trinity Eckerty hit in another run with a double off the center field fence.
Elwood then loaded the bases, but pitcher Smith was able to work her magic to hold the Panthers.
It was over. Gray was relieved. “It’s all about the girls,” he says. But they know otherwise.
Cory Gray couldn't walk, talk or even move. On Saturday, he'll coach again.
Scecina wins Cory Gray a state title and he 'can't even put into words.'
The 2017 Scecina Crusader Softball Team
|0||Cierra Ash||17||Trinity Eckerty|
|1||Cali Burgess||21||Rachel Cox|
|3||Monika Nance||22 ||Kristina Streeval|
|5||Alexis Franks||23||Kellianne Mendez|
|6||Emma Deery||24||Lizzie Smith|
|8||Kaylyn Linder||25||Alex Marshall|
|9||Allie Owens||30||Cassie Smith|
|12||Nicole Troxell||55||Sara Beers|