ST. JOHN | A Lake Central state championship may not erase the memory, but it would go a long way in salving some old wounds that haven't quite healed, even six years later.
Back in 2006, Dyer advanced to the Little League state tournament in nearby Merrillville, where it went 2-1 in pool play and was all but assured of a berth in the semifinals.
"We won our game against Gary and left thinking we'd advanced," said Ryan Pachowicz, one of four Indians who was on the Dyer squad. "I woke up the next morning and my mom said we didn't advance. I was like, what are you talking about?"
What transpired in the subsequent game between New Castle and Lebanon was one of those occasions that gives youth sports, notably baseball, a bad name.
The only scenario in which Dyer couldn't move on was if New Castle shut out Lebanon. Wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what happened.
When the runs allowed tie-breaker was applied, both advanced and Dyer was left on the outside looking in.
As the L.C./Dyer players recalled, Lebanon was intentionally making outs, swinging at bad pitches, its middle-of-the-order hitters bunting. When it would get someone on base, they'd purposely get caught stealing.
"It almost became obvious," Jimmy McNamara said.
Neither team used a top pitcher despite the importance of the game. Everyone watching knew what was going on, but nothing came of it.
New Castle, which was no-hit by Dyer's Stefano Belmonte, went on to win the state title and reached the finals of the Central States Regional before falling to Lemont (Ill.). To add insult to injury, the game was on ESPN.
"They almost made it to the Little League World Series," Pachowicz said. "It was tough, knowing in the back of our mind that it could've been us."
Later on, some Lebanon folks came clean on the whole deal. McNamara said Dyer manager Mike Burvan was told via email that the game was thrown.
"He can't let it go," Ryan Burvan said of his dad.
In addition to winning state as 11-year-olds, the core group of Dyer players went 126-10 between the ages of 7 and 12. None of the 10 losses came against local teams.
"A lot of people didn't like us," McNamara said, "because our team was good."
And like the current L.C. squad, they had a bit of a swagger.
As high school seniors, they are 30-1 and one win away from a state title after rallying for an extra-inning victory against Zionsville on Saturday.
"The first thing (Mike Burvan) said after the game was that the only way we could make this better is if we could play Lebanon or New Castle in the state finals," Taylor Lehnert said.
Indianapolis Roncalli will have to do.
"(Winning state) would definitely make up for it," Pachowicz said. "It would be a lot easier to look back on (2006)."
That's a recollection McNamara would just as well put out of his mind.
"After we win state, we'll always remember that," he said. "It'll mean a lot more than winning state when we were 12."
Last I checked, there are no tie-breakers Saturday.
This column represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.