State champs: Hailey Cripe
Pioneer shortstop leads state in homers, wins title, thanks seniors
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
GREENWOOD –- The home run queen of Indiana high school softball is now also a state champion.
She is also a thankful teammate.
Hailey Cripe capped a legendary junior season by going 1 for 3 with a single and a hit by pitch in Pioneer’s 4-2 win over Sullivan in the Class 2A state championship game at Center Grove Elementary School Saturday.
Cripe led the state in home runs as a freshman with 19 in 2019. After losing the 2020 season to the coronavirus pandemic, she led the state in home runs again in 2021 with 23. She also improved her batting average from .537 to .581 and her RBI total from 54 to 62.
She also improved her walk total from 13 to 20 while cutting her strikeouts from eight to four. She even doubled her stolen base total from five to 10.
In the circle, she cut her ERA from 0.62 two years ago to 0.32 this season. Through two prep seasons of pitching, she is 26-1 with a 0.46 ERA. She also cut her walks from 23 to 18 and increased her strikeouts from 127 to 187 in 10 more innings of work from 2019 to 2021.
But when asked soon after Saturday’s game, she spoke about winning state while playing one last time with seniors Hailey Gotshall, Madison Blickenstaff and Mackenzie Walker.
“I’m just very excited,” Cripe said. “This is my last year with the seniors. It’s just very special.”
Cripe said she welcomed the competition that Sullivan provided.
“I was excited because I knew they were going to be a good team,” Cripe said. “Our ERAs were pretty low, so it was going to be a battle. I was excited to play them, and we got the game that we wanted, and we came out on top, so I was very excited.”
She called Sullivan pitcher Kendal Edmondson “crafty” and actually took a pitch off her face mask in the top of the seventh inning. She remarked how it wasn’t the storybook ending to a great year, but she said she did turn away so she didn’t take the brunt of the pitch.
She said the win capped a long week of preparation.
“It was definitely the longest week we’ve practiced for, honestly” Cripe said. “Because usually we play six games in a row. Preparation, we looked at their record. We checked their pitching. We actually saw her in travel ball for the travel team that I play for. It was kind of unknown, and we were able to pick up on that, and then our coaches do a great job of doing their job in scouting the team and preparing us. … We know everything going into the game, and then once we’re there, there’s just more on top of that.”
Cripe said the team had to improve on defense following an 11-0 loss in six innings to Harrison (West Lafayette) on April 30. Pioneer never lost again.
“Since the Harrison game, we turned it up a lot,” Cripe said. “We did a lot of defense because that was where we struggled a lot. … So we switched a few things up outfield-wise and started working really hard on defense. You can see the difference.”
But Cripe’s legacy might be hyping her teammates more than herself while showing her trust in them. For example, she spoke of how much she trusted Crystabelle Blickenstaff before Crystabelle’s RBI double in the top of the sixth gave Pioneer a 4-2 lead.
She said she was so excited for her that she was going to run out of the dugout and tackle her in celebration if the ball had left the park.
“Absolutely insane,” a beaming Cripe said. “I mean, this week at practice, she struggled a little bit hitting, but I knew she was going to come through. She always does. That’s just the type of athlete she is.
“When she’s up there, I really thought that ball was going out, and I didn’t care about COVID at that point in time. I was definitely going to charge the plate and go tear on her. So I was very excited for it. I was glad she came through for us at that point in time.”
With the state spotlight on her, it was Cripe often coming through.
Pioneer became the first school in IHSAA history to win state titles in volleyball, girls basketball and softball in the same school year. Cripe is one of seven student-athletes who plays on all three teams. Younger sister Adeline Cripe, Kylie Attinger, Crystabelle Blickenstaff, Madison Blickenstaff, Brooklyn Borges and Walker are the other six.
She had 22 kills, 27 digs and 16 serves received in the 1A state championship volleyball match against Loogootee. She also had 12 points in a 43-42 win over Loogootee in the 1A girls basketball state championship game on Feb. 27.
She averaged a team-high 19 points per game for the basketball team and has already passed the 1,000 career point mark with a year to go.
Cripe might have saved her biggest hit of the season for the sectional semifinal game against Boone Grove when she hit a two-run homer off Natalee Meinert in the sixth inning to flip the lead and give the top-ranked Lady Panthers a 2-1 win.
“A lot of schools are lucky to even get one in their four years,” Cripe said. “And we had three in one year, and it’s amazing. I’m very grateful.”
Hailey Cripe in action vs Sullivan at the 2A state championship softball game. Pictures courtesy of DaBud Man www.dabudman.com
The Pioneer softball team defeated Sullivan 4-2 at Center Grove Elementary School’s Russ Milligan Field in Greenwood Saturday to win the Class 2A state title. The title is Pioneer’s second in school history and their first since 2018. Pictures courtesy of DaBud Man www.dabudman.com