MUNSTER | It's a new beginning for Munster.
After losing their last 10 games of the regular season, the Mustangs opened up Class 4A sectional play with a 10-3 win over Lowell on their home field.
"Postseason is a new start," coach Bob Shinkan said. "(During the losing streak) it was just a matter of keeping these kids focused and confident. I'm so proud of these kids for enduring what we went through."
East Chicago Central also advanced with a 10-1 win over West Side in the second game.
In the nightcap, Keith Mahler pitched five innings and allowed only a hit batsmen to reach base, striking out 11 as Highland polished off Morton 10-0. Mahler also hit a two-run home run to highlight an eight-run fifth inning that ended the game just before midnight. Highland's Mike Gamaleri hit a solo home run in the frame, as well.
Munster broke its game open with a six-run fifth that started with Mark Strbjak's double. The Mustangs had seven hits in the inning, with all but Strbjak's being singles.
"The balls were over the plate and we were just putting good swings on it," senior Adam Larimer said. "We were putting the ball in play and that's all we've got to do."
The Mustangs (10-16) got on the board early when Chris Slivka singled in Larimer in the opening frame. Lowell struck back in its half of the inning, however, scoring on Jordan Juarez's triple and Jacob Hayden's single up the middle.
Juarez doubled to lead off the third and scored on Tyler Hamm's single two batters later.
"We didn't beat ourselves -- they definitely beat us," Red Devils coach Robert Wong said. "One inning we were on (Munster starter Anthony Gomez) and the next he was on us. That's the game of baseball, I guess."
John Cristo took the first pitch of the Munster fourth and lined it over the right-field fence. Munster scored twice more in the inning on Scott Jerge's single and Larimer's double.
"Cristo's homer just sparked things," Shinkan said. "Hitting's contagious, and all of the sudden we started hitting the ball very well."
In the second game of the night, E.C. Central spread 10 runs over all seven innings to get the win.
"We were trying to get them to be more aggressive early," Cardinals coach Jorge Ontiveros said. "Apparently in the third inning, that's when they starting listening to what we were saying."
E.C. Central scored two runs in that third frame and never lost the lead. West Side got its run on two hits in its first at-bat.
"Anyone that has a bat in their hands is dangerous," Ontiveros said. "You've got to get three outs every inning."
Cardinals hurler Dario Ruiz threw seven innings and struck out five while giving up six hits.
"Dario Ruiz is our No. 1, a senior," Ontiveros said. "He's pitched well for us all year and today (he) kind of showed what he's capable of."