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Columbus East, North players feel at home at Lincoln Park

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Elyse Babb lived in Terre Haute until her seventh-grade year, but the Columbus East sophomore remembers playing in a softball tournament at Lincoln Park when she was 9 or 10 years old.

Then, after moving to Columbus, Babb helped her Indiana Select travel team win a tournament at Lincoln Park.

This week, Babb and her East teammates, along with host Columbus North, will have a chance to revisit that venue when they play in the North Sectional beginning Tuesday.


“I think it’s a great facility and has great fields, and I enjoy playing there,” Babb said. “I didn’t grow up playing there, but I do see it as a field that I’m used to.”

Several other Bull Dogs and Olympians grew up playing at Lincoln Park and have fond memories of their experiences. North senior Denisa Brooks remembers cookouts between games and hanging out and playing board games and bonding with her Indiana Stingers team.

“It’s a nice field, so it’s fun to play there,” Brooks said. “It definitely helps that it’s a home game, and it helps that our fans can come out.”

The top pitchers on each team, North senior Grayson Harney and East sophomore Hayley Smalley, remember watching their fathers play softball at Lincoln Park. Smalley hit her first-ever home run, a grand slam, two summers ago at Lincoln.

The Bull Dogs also hosted — and won — the sectional at Lincoln Park in 2011 and 2012. This year’s seniors were freshmen and sophomores those years.

“I remember everyone made posters for us, and there were a lot of fans from here,” Harney said. “I’m very excited, knowing that I get to play this year. It gets me more pumped up.”

East senior Taylor Hilderbrand recalls playing Bloomington North in the rain in the sectional her freshman year.

“That was probably the best game we played all season,” Hilderbrand said. “I remember every time we were out in the field, it wouldn’t rain, and then they would be out (in the field), and it would be pouring.”

The sectional will feature 200-foot temporary fences on a diamond where the permanent fences are more than 300 feet.

“They put up the short fences, too, whenever we were younger, so that was nice, as well, because you got to know the depth of and actual field,” North junior Kelsay Lucas said.

Last year’s sectional was at East Central. The Bull Dogs lost to Bloomington South in the opening round, and the Olympians made it to the finals before falling to Bloomington South.

“I like the feeling that you’re at home,” East junior Caitlyn Williams said. “It’s definitely an advantage for us. We’re not going to have to travel an hour away to go play in the sectional. It lowers our nerves.”

“There will be a bigger crowd because it’s here in Columbus,” Smalley said. “We’re familiar with the field, and it should be kind of an advantage.”

The Bull Dogs think playing in town will help them, as well.

“Our fans kind of set a tempo, which is nice,”

Lucas said. “Having them there to support helps us mentally prepare ourselves for the game.”

“I love playing there because it’s in town, and all your friends can come, and it’s a nice facility, so I like it,” North senior Shannah Hercamp said. “I’m super excited because we didn’t think it was going to be at home this year, and we got the news it was. Having that home crowd is definitely an advantage.”

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