Although the high school spring softball season was canceled, Western softball players Kinsey Smith, Kinzie Conaway, and Izzy Johnson walked away with championship rings late last month.
The girls competed on the 18U Indiana Chaos travel ball team based in Lafayette, Ind. After a rough start to the season and weekend of tournament play on July 18, the players gave everything they had physically and mentally to come out on top by Sunday afternoon. Conaway said the final win was meaningful to her.
“It means a lot. Not having high school season was really hard because I grew up with all those girls, and we’ve been playing since we were young, forever. And then being able to play in travel ball with some of the girls that I had been playing with in high school like Izzy (Johnson) and Kinsey (Smith), it was nice to have some high school girls there and winning tournaments … ending our tournaments on a win,” Conaway said.
The travel league season began in the winter with a slow start, Conaway said, but the lack of a high school season drove the players to work even harder to have a good season.
“When we first started, we started off really slowly. We were losing games back to back to back. We hadn’t won a game. I didn’t think we were going to be very good when we first started,” Conaway said. “After high school ball, we found out it got canceled. It just like lit a fire inside everyone. We were like, ‘We’re missing that. We just want to play even more.’ So then we started winning even more games.”
Johnson was a substitute player for Chaos after the team became short a player for the final weekend due to an injury. The team played a total of four games on Saturday, losing the first two pool-play games. After that, the players were determined to perform better, according to her.
Chaos beat the Elite team for the third game of the day. With several recently-graduated seniors on the team, such as Smith and Jacey Grimm from Lewis Cass High School, Johnson said she and the other underclassmen felt a responsibility to end the day well for the recent graduates who didn’t get a final high school season.
“Just being able to like play one more last time with them was like, ‘OK, we got to pull through for them at least.’ From then on, we just had our minds set of, ‘We’re going to win this whole thing.’” Johnson said.
During the fourth game against the Beasts, both Conaway and Johnson said the team was tired after a long day of softball in the extreme heat. The players were down 3-1 in the last inning. Knowing if the team lost the game they would have to play a fifth game that afternoon, Chaos was determined to win.
“The bases were loaded. … We finally just started hitting the ball again, and we just started cranking them. I hit a double, and all of a sudden we were up by I think four. We just went after it even more, and that was game,” Johnson said.
Chaos won 5-3 for its final game on Saturday.
On Sunday, the team returned for two more games, both against Purple Haze. The first game was a close one the entire time, and Chaos won by three runs. Johnson credited Chaos’ pitcher.
“Our pitcher was literally on fire. She just kept wheeling them in there. At the end of the game when the buzzer went off, we came up on top,” Johnson said.
For the championship game, the Chaos offense kept sending balls to the outfield, and Chaos came out as the champions after defeating the Purple Haze 7-3 in the last game.
Sharing the win with a couple of her Western teammates meant a lot to Johnson.
“It means the world to me, actually. Like losing our season with Emma (Key) and Kinsey (Smith) literally broke my heart losing those two. Like that has impacted the game so much for me. It meant the world to me just walking off that field one last time with a win with Kinsey. It just meant a lot to me,” Johnson said.