September 29, 2022

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Lake Creek wins first state title in school history

AUSTIN — The Lake Creek Lions are clocking out. Job well done.

After coming up a round short of the University Interscholastic League Class 5A tournament in 2021, the Lions regrouped this year under the mantra ‘Unfinished Business’.

Well, business closed on Saturday evening in a resounding way.

Junior Ava Brown dominated in the circle, the Lions scored whenever possible and Lake Creek is now a first-time state champion in just its fourth year of existence.

Lake Creek, the No. 1 team in the nation, took down Georgetown 7-0 at Red and Charline McCombs Field.

“It’s surreal,” Lake Creek junior catcher Kalee Rochinski said afterwards as she held the championship trophy. “It doesn’t feel real. Going undefeated and winning it was just crazy.”

Brown, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, set the Eagles down in order in six out of seven innings for Lake Creek (41-0). She lost a perfect game bid in the fifth, but struck out eight and allowed just one hit in the win.

Junior shortstop Maddie McKee, who played spectacular defense all day, fielded the final ground ball of the day and fired it to first as the celebration began.

“I just knew it,” Lake Creek senior second baseman Caelee Clark said when she saw McKee make that play. “Maddie got a good little hop on it and I just knew it was going to be an out. It was great.”

It was a full-circle moment for Lions head coach Michelle Rochinski. She led Montgomery to this point 10 years ago and fell short. She took a chance by becoming Lake Creek’s first softball coach when the school opened in 2018. And now the rest is history.

“It’s amazing,” Kalee Rochinski, Michelle’s daughter, said. “Being right by her side is just fun. It’s a good time.”

Bunts and base running got Lake Creek its early runs. Solid hitting piled up some runs late.

With Brown dazzling in the circle, it was a well-crafted all-around win for the Lions.

Lake Creek took a 1-0 lead in the second inning as Payton Bauer was hit by an up-and-in pitch with the bases loaded.

The Lions then added three more runs in the third inning, all on errors. Lake Creek applied pressure with small ball as Carmen Uribe, Madelyn Lopez and Clark all scored runs.

“We talked about winning the inning,” Michelle Rochinski said. “The first inning, we weren’t able to score. But we still in my mind won the inning. We didn’t let them score. We come out in the second inning and were able to do a few things. From the first pitch on, they were relaxed and had fun. They were playing the Lake Creek softball that they’ve been playing all year long.”

Shelby Winn punched in an RBI single in the fifth inning.

Brown then found the right field gap in the sixth inning for two more runs as the Lions set the final score.

“It was amazing,” Kalee Rochinski said of how her team played. “I’m just so happy. We came out and played our game. We didn’t let the game affect us. We knew it was the state championship, but we just needed to be Lake Creek and play softball.”

Brown, a Florida commit, set down the first 12 batters she faced, including six strikeouts. Madison Hartley led off the fifth inning with a roller to short. On a bang-bang play at first, Hartley was safe and Georgetown had its first hit and base runner. The next Eagles batter was hit by a pitch.

Brown got out of the inning and Georgetown didn’t see the base paths again the rest of the way.

“Ava pitched a great game,” Michelle Rochinski said. “In the championship game. What do you say about that? Defense was phenomenal. We made some great defensive plays.”

Brown worked with precision in the circle.

“I was staying away from all the hitters and trying to make them hit my best pitch instead of giving them something to hit,” Brown said. “That’s all.”

The final out was a thrilling moment.

“Just excitement,” Brown said. “I’m so blessed to be able to do this with my best friends. It’s just so much fun.”

Clark was surprised at the result. But not the work it took to earn it.

“We’ve been working so hard,” Clark, who finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored, said. “And to finally get to this point and finish it off with a bang – 7-0 – it’s just insane. I would have never thought that’s what the score would be.”

There were a couple dicey moments in the early going. But ultimately, Michelle Rochinski felt it was an excellent game played.

“I think that game right there was a pretty good championship game,” she said. “We had some base running miscues but we were able to pick each other up. That’s the good thing about this team.”

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