CROWNPOINT-A strange thing has happened to the Crown Point softball program. Interest seems to be waning.
The Panthers have enjoyed unparalleled success - they've lost just one Mountain and Valley Athletic Conference game in the last eight years while winning seven of the last eight Section VII Class D championships - yet they have just 10 players this season.
"It's the smallest team I've ever coached; I don't understand it," Coach Mike Ross said. "We can't afford anyone on the academic list getting hurt or getting sick. It's a rebuilding year, to say the least."
While numbers are down, Crown Point still has talent. The Panthers return all three pitchers from last season's 10-0 MVAC championship team. Chelsea Dushane, Lindsay Brace and Alex Macey will again stand on the hill.
"They're all proven pitchers," Ross said. "Our pitching will be fine."
Catching will be Taylor Booth, who has been pressed into service by an injury to Lauren Brace, last year's backstop.
The infield will be manned by Ashley Morgan, Amanda Wolf and Ellen Kiely along with Dushane, Brace and Macey when they're not hurling.
Hailey White, Courtney Meachem and Jenna Petro will roam the outfield.
Ross expects his club to score runs.
"Our hitting looks pretty good," he said. "I think we have some poke. The girls showed last year they can hit with some power. Some can hit it a long way."
Ross is less confident about his defense.
"You win championships on defense," he said. "There's where we've got a lot of work to do. If we can catch the ball we'll be alright."