The Class 2A No. 1 Eagles will have the chance to claim an undefeated season and their second straight title after winning the Forest Park semi-state Saturday.
South Putnam began the day by defeating No. 13 Union County 4-1 in what proved to be the closest of the contests.
Playing as the home team, the Eagles grabbed an early lead. Brooke Boetjer launched a line drive home run over the center field fence in the bottom of the first to give the squad a 2-0 advantage.
The Patriots responded in the top of the second. Brooke Reiboldt doubled to lead off the inning and scored off a South Putnam error during the next at-bat.
The score remained 2-1 until the bottom of the fourth. Mattie Varvel walked to lead off the inning, MaKenzie Trisler was hit by a pitch and after both runners were moved over, Brooke Cundiff loaded the bases on a bunt single.
Jenny Thompson got the decisive hit, scoring two on a double down the third base line to give the Eagles a 4-1 lead.
The Eagles would later reload the bases in the same inning but Boetjer struck out to end the inning.
Boetjer would not allow the lead to be threatened as she struck out 11 over the seven innings of play, allowing just three hits and an unearned run.
South Putnam head coach Chris Jones said after the Union County game that squad withstood the pressure while applying it to the Patriots.
"I thought we came out and we played well. We got on the board early with Brooke's shot out of the park, which was a great way to get things started," Jones said.
"They answered back and put a run on the board but we kept things going and found a way to get two more runs in and put pressure on them."
After the win was secured, the Eagles advanced to the finals that evening, where they faced South Knox in a rematch of the regional the season prior. The No. 9 Spartans dispatched plucky Switzerland County 11-1 in the other morning game.
The Eagles exploded in the fourth inning for seven runs to claim the semi-state title with a 10-0 win in five innings.
Both squads missed chances to score in the early going as the Eagles wasted a leadoff double by Emily Dabkowski.
The Eagles then had to buckle down heavily when they allowed the first two Spartans hitters to reach base on errors. With the runners on second and third, Boetjer was able to strike out the next two batters to end the frame still tied at 0-0.
South Putnam found the breakthrough in the top of the third inning. Cundiff started the inning off with a triple into left center field. Dabkowski grounded out but scored Cundiff to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
With the game still close, South Putnam exploded into life in the fourth inning.
A leadoff double by Boetjer was followed by a Jenna Jones single. After Varvel walked to load the bases, Trisler cleared the bases with a triple to right-center field, extending the lead to 4-0.
Janet Crafton singled past pitcher Lauren Keller to score Trisler and moved to third after the Eagles recorded two outs.
Thompson's pop-up to the pitcher should have ended the inning but, to the South Knox fans' horror, Keller failed to squeeze the catch and watched as it slid through her glove and to the ground.
Crafton scored on the play to make the lead 6-0 and the Eagles continued to add on as Boetjer singled in Thompson and Kelsey Whitaker to take the lead up to 8-0.
While Boetjer continued to deal at the mound, the Eagles put the finishing touches on the game by scoring two in the top half of the fifth.
Varvel doubled to lead off the inning and scored on a Trisler single. Trisler plated later on a Dabkowski single. Boetjer slammed the door shut in the bottom of the inning to seal the squad's second straight state title game berth.
Even with a shaky start, Jones said the squad settled down as the championship game progressed.
"I don't think we were too loose early. I think we had some misfortunes, maybe a lack of focus at a couple of moments but we brought it back in," Jones said.
"Brooke did a great job of striking people out when they had runners on. We had errors and a blunder in the first where I thought we had the chance to score and didn't.
"But we came back and answered later. We opened it up in the fourth inning and it felt like everybody was getting a hit. Sometimes it's contagious like that for us," Jones added.
Jones also said that winning the semi-state final early was a monumental accomplishment.
"To finish the championship game in five innings, that's unprecedented. Beating a team the caliber of South Knox like that is a testament to the girls and the work that they've done," Jones said.
"It comes down to focus and playing your type of game. You can't let pressure get to you and they've done a good job of relaxing, playing the game and realizing when they play their game of softball, we've got a great chance to win every game we're in."
Having been ranked No. 1 for the entire season, Jones said the squad had handled the pressure well to get back to the state title game.
"The target has been on our back. We haven't been hiding from anybody and everybody knows about us," Jones said.
"That's part of the beauty of what they've been able to accomplish this year. Hopefully we can continue that for one more game."
"We have to take the same approach that we have taken all this year and for the past two years, which is one pitch, one play, one game at a time," Jones added.
"If they can take that approach, I'd put these girls up against anybody to play. That's what they have to do."
The Eagles will look to add a second state title and cement their place as the best softball team in the state against Adams Central next Saturday.
The Jets knocked off No. 2 Rochester in their opening game before defeating Carroll (Flora) 4-2 to advance to the state title game.
Jones said that, considering the winner was not who many would have predicted, the Eagles will not take Adams Central lightly.
"We can't underestimate an opponent. There's times last year, even when we were ranked, I'm not sure some people thought we would make it as far as we did," Jones said.
"You have to respect each and every one of your opponents and play as hard and mentally tough as you can for seven innings.
"We've got one game left and we're going to go up to Ben Davis and see what we can do against Adams Central."
At Forest Park
IHSAA Class 2A South
South Putnam 001 72 -- 10 11 2
South Knox 000 00 -- 0 1 1
WP -- Boetjer (21-0)
LP -- Keller
3B -- Cundiff, Trisler
2B -- Dabkowski, Boetjer, Varvel
Union County 010 000 0 -- 1 3 0
South Putnam 200 200 X -- 4 7 1
WP -- Boetjer (20-0)
LP -- Tidrow
HR -- Boetjer
2B -- Reiboldt (UC), Jones, Thompson (SP)
Next game -- South Putnam faces Adams Central in the IHSAA Class 2A State Championship game at Ben Davis High School at 1:30 p.m..