ST. JOHN | When he wrestled as a freshman and sophomore, Chuck Alexa learned to shoulder blame rather than assign it.
Fail nobly, try harder, then repeat until success comes. It’s a time-honored formula for grapplers, hitters and many athletes. It might just be working for Lake Central’s entire baseball team now, too.
Alexa, a senior, leads the Indians in runs batted in, and he accentuated his season total with six more Thursday as Lake Central posted a refreshing 12-1 win over visiting Times No. 4 Portage, a Duneland Athletic Conference affair that lasted five innings.
Lake Central (3-5, 1-1) was free to close the glass case around the panic button after a 2-5 start that included a 9-2 loss Wednesday at Chesterton, an affair rife with errors and short on hits.
“The team has been feeling really down lately with all of these losses,” Alexa said. “We knew we were striking out way too much and we had to hit the ball and keep working hard to get better.
“The great thing about baseball is there’s usually another game. Now we feel 100 times better.”
Alexa wasn’t the only one assessing blame and eager to turn the season around.
Following Wednesday’s loss and subsequent ride home, Jeff Sandor, off to the worst start in his career as head coach at Lake Central, slept less than 45 minutes on the night.
He planned to get plenty of rest Thursday night, and it was not just because L.C. doesn't have class today.
“I’m happy with these guys today,” Sandor said. “I felt like some guys were losing it mentally, and I don’t know if they responded to me or they responded for each other.
“I know we have a better product than this.”
Sandor batted a junior varsity call-up in the leadoff spot and made a few noticeable changes elsewhere in the lineup.
What remained consistent, however, was the play of Alexa and ace pitcher Brenden Seren.
Alexa doubled two runs home for a 3-0 lead in the first, then added two-run singles in the third and fourth. Alex Nisle, not an everyday starter so far this season, hit a two-run home run to left that capped the scoring.
“I knew (Portage wasn’t) throwing their best pitcher, but we hit the ball like crazy,” Alexa said. “I was seeing the ball well and hit the crap out of it.”
While Portage (6-2, 1-1) used ace Kevin Jones to dispatch rival Valparaiso on Wednesday, Lake Central used Seren (2-0) to put the team back into the win column.
Seren allowed three hits, one of which was Peter Psomadelis’ solo homer leading off the second, while striking out six and walking none. He also scored three runs on three hits.
Portage coach Tim Pirowski was not happy with his team’s response, or lack thereof, to early adversity.
“I felt like we just went back on our heels,” Pirowski said. “In the DAC you’re going to run into someone’s ace, and anybody can beat anybody. I think you’re going to see more diversity in the conference this year than in years past.”