Portage is playing in its fifth sectional final in a row Monday at Chesterton. The Indians broke through and won the title last season at LaPorte and Hobart coach Bob Glover Jr. compares his current Brickies to the 2013 team.
"They're a program that knows how to win this time of year," Glover said. "They were on the cusp, knocking on the door a lot of years and finally broke through last year, which is kind of where we are. We're looking to take that next step. Obviously, I feel pretty good about where we're at, but we're going to have come out and keep playing well. They're the team to beat until somebody beats them."
Portage is on a roll at the right time, having won 10 of its last 11 games.
"We're not beating ourselves and we're taking advantage of situations," coach Tim Pirowski said.
The championship could be special, pitting Hobart's Brandon Murray (South Carolina) and Portage's Kevin Jones (Northern Illinois).
Lake Central's win in the Munster Sectional on Saturday was as expected as it was surprising. The Indians have scouted the Mustangs at every opportunity this season, and the Northwest Crossroads Conference schedule has been helpful.
The NCC schedule allows for a 1-2 rotation every Monday and Tuesday, so weather permitting, the L.C. coaching staff saw nearly every pitcher in Munster's stable.
As underrated as the Indians have been the bulk of this season, they're peaking at the right time.
Mark Zimmerle is stepping down as River Forest baseball coach after the season, and his players are trying to end his tenure with a bang. The Ingots upset Boone Grove 8-3 in the Class 2A Whiting Sectional Friday to advance to Monday's championship against favorite Bishop Noll.
“It means a lot to me," Zimmerle said. "This is my last hurrah. These kids know that, and they’re playing their butts off for me. It’s great. It feels good to see these kids playing as hard as they are right now and it’s so exciting to me as a coach.”
The Ingots will get a Warriors team that expects to win but was fortunate to get out of the semifinals, needing extra innings to elude the host Oilers.
"I know it’s tough with the momentum, taking a day off, but we come out and make five errors," coach Andrew Ramker said. "We’re going to come back focused. They’re hungry for a sectional championship. They’re not satisfied at all with just winning two games. That’s not what we’re here for, and they understand that we’re still working toward something a lot bigger.”
South Central had a string of four sectional titles end last year, which, unfortunately for coach Ryan Kruszka, coincided with his first season the dugout for the Satellites. They'll get a chance to start a new streak Monday at Culver.
“It feels good. I’m trying to get my first as a head coach under my belt," Kruszka said. "I feel with these guys we could have a very, very good shot if we do what we’re supposed to do and play the game how it’s supposed to be played. We’re excited.”
At Westville, Washington is in a sectional final for the third year in a row, but hasn't won one since 2007. It may have been quietly hoping for Morgan Township, which knocked off the Senators in the final the last two years, but it gets Kouts, which ousted Washington in the semifinals en route to the championship in 2011.
"I always tell them revenge is for babies," Senators coach Randy Roberts said. "We've had two tough ones in a row. You can't bring 'em back. You lost, the other team won. We're not looking for payback, but if they can use it to motivate themselves, all the better."
Westville's Riley Cuma may well be the only left-handed catcher in the area. His mom said he wasn't easy to find a catcher's glove for him as a left-hander, but Blythe's had one in stock. Cuma endured a rough five innings Saturday against Washington Township, taking a foul tip off the bare hand and another in a lower, sensitive area.
"He's trooper, no doubt about it," Blackhawks coach Darrell Swistek said., "I couldn't have forced him out of the game."
Cuma was a bright spot for a young Westville team that's hurting for numbers with no JV team.
"We don't have a feeder program," Swistek said. "We've got to get more kids to come out. We need to have some reserves who can come in."