- Val T.
State champions: The Blickenstaff sisters
Madison, Belle have ball in winning 3 state titles in 1 year
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
GREENWOOD –- Madison Blickenstaff won a softball state championship as a freshman left fielder in 2018.
And now she’s won a state title as a senior third baseman in 2021.
There’s one other difference from 2018 to 2021: She’s not the only Blickenstaff.
Younger sister Crystabelle Blickenstaff also won a state championship when Pioneer beat Sullivan 4-2 at Center Grove Elementary School’s Russ Milligan Field Saturday.
Madison Blickenstaff came in with a .398 batting average, four homers and 38 RBIs, but it was Crystabelle Blickenstaff, a sophomore second baseman who hits ninth in the Pioneer order, who had the bigger offensive contribution against Sullivan. Crystabelle Blickenstaff had an RBI double to the left-center field gap over the outfielders’ heads in the sixth inning to give Pioneer a 4-2 lead.
“It felt really, really good to have the team support me behind their back and being able to get back in there,” Crystabelle said.
Madison Blickenstaff went 0 for 3 but stood out on two important plays – one on offense and one on defense.
In the top of the sixth, with a runner on first and nobody out, she grounded to third baseman Delainey Shorter. Shorter waited momentarily for shortstop Avery Wiltermood to cover second base before throwing there for a potential forceout.
Her throw was late, and Pioneer had two on and nobody out. Three batters later, pinch-hitter Emma Novaski reached second on a pair of Sullivan errors, and Madison wound up scoring the game-winning run.
“When I was standing on second when she was up to bat, I knew she was going to hit, and I knew we were going to get to score,” Madison said of Novaski. “I can’t explain it, but every time she gets up to bat, she does her job. Like, every time. So I knew it was going to happen. And when she got us in, the energy changed. And our dugout, on the field, on defense, it was just different.”
The state championship caps off an unprecedented school year at Pioneer. They became the first school in IHSAA history to win state titles in volleyball, girls basketball and softball in the same year.
The Blickenstaff sisters are two of seven athletes who were on all three teams. Kylie Attinger, Adeline Cripe, Hailey Cripe, Brooklyn Borges and Mackenzie Walker are the other five.
“I gave her a hug on the field and almost started crying,” Madison said. “It was awesome to go play with my sister who loves the same things that I do, and we can both have fun doing it together. And we practice together, we go home together, and we work at home. So it’s just great to see our hard work together pay off.”
Crystabelle is called “Belle” or “Little Blick” by those that know her well.
“She was crying. I was not,” Crystabelle said with a laugh. “But it was really awesome. That’s the third for us, and the fact that I was able to be with this one in the game with her felt really nice.”
An all-court star who had over 1,000 career kills and over 250 digs and serves received, Madison Blickenstaff will play college volleyball at Ohio Christian University, an NAIA school located in Circleville, Ohio, next year.
“Awesome,” Madison said. “It feels greater each time we do it. It doesn’t get old.”
Madison was asked how a school can be so good at three sports.
“I have no idea,” Madison said. “I think it came from when we all played travel softball together from when we were like 10 or something. And then it just kept growing. And we were all so competitive that we all just wanted to be the best. We always wanted to beat each other in everything. Because at the time, not all of us were playing on the same team. We were all playing against each other. But we still went to the same school. I think that’s where the competitiveness came in.”
Crystabelle said her and her sister’s sporting interests are similar, but they differ off the field.
“She likes reading. I don’t like reading,” Crystabelle said. “She’s more into education. I’m really not. I’m more into the athletics.”
Crystabelle also credited the team’s other two seniors, Mackenzie Walker and Hailey Gotshall.
“I’m definitely going to miss all three of them,” Crystabelle said. “They have been a great, big part of my life since I was little.
“It’s really going to be different without them.”
Asked about the intensity of playing in a state championship game, Crystabelle said she noticed it through the middle innings when Pioneer trailed 2-1. But she also said she had “no doubt” that Pioneer would pull through.
“Because that’s just what we do,” Crystabelle said.
Pioneer became the first school in IHSAA history to win state titles in volleyball, girls basketball and softball in the same school year Saturday. Seven student-athletes are members of all three teams. From left – Hailey Cripe, Brooklyn Borges, athletic director John Bingaman, Mackenzie Walker, Madison Blickenstaff, Crystabelle Blickenstaff, Kylie Attinger, Adeline Cripe.