WHITING | The at-bats started gaining in length in the fifth inning as the sun spiked toward its highest angle and the urgency became more and more palpable.
A seemingly innocuous one-out battle between Bishop Noll starting pitcher Cal Djuraskovic and Lafayette Central Catholic No. 8 hitter Pete Metzinger resulted in at least a box’s worth of foul balls and a full count that became a walk.
With that base on balls, Lafayette Central Catholic took its first big step as a Class 2A team. Another walk followed, then a fly out, then a hit batter.
Purdue recruit Evan Kennedy then doubled to the gap in left center to clear the bases and erase Bishop Noll’s 2-0 lead.
Although the Warriors came back to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth, Central Catholic had its confidence, newfound swagger and compiled the go-ahead runs in the top of the seventh and eliminated Bishop Noll 5-3 Saturday morning in the first semifinal of the Class 2A Whiting Regional at Oil City Stadium.
“We try to play our game simply,” Bishop Noll coach Andrew Ramker said. “We try to throw strikes, but when you walk people you’re in trouble. If we hit a few more of their strikes, it’s a different story, but they made a few more pitches and hits, and now we’re the ones leaving.”
The Knights (26-6) won their 37th consecutive postseason game, which includes the last five Class A state titles.
“Our guys know how to win because they’re competitors,” Knights coach Tim Bordenet said. “They’ve won in all the sports they play, and when you compete and win all year round, you know how to win a baseball game like this.”
Kennedy’s two-out walk in the seventh propelled the Knights to the game-breaking final two runs. Bradyn Bordenet and Hayes Cronk singled runs home to account for the winning margin.
Noll (22-8) struck first in the first inning, as Indiana recruit Larry Crisler, the jewel of a seven-man senior class that said its teary goodbyes amid hugs and back pats outside the stadium in a private gathering, got on via single, over via sacrifice and in via Nick Thrasher’s RBI single.
Anthony Cobb’s sacrifice fly in the third scored Jaylen Yarbrough for a 2-0 Noll lead.
Kennedy’s double erased all the chipping away Noll had done against LCC starter Cronk (one walk, 11 strikeouts).
Djuraskovic walked two with one out in the sixth before being relieved by Cesar Montemayor, who issued an intentional walk before inducing two fly outs to end the inning.
“That’s his M.O. -- in a tight spot, he comes in,” Ramker said. “That’s what he’s done and what he’s been best at.
“That was two great teams going at it,” Ramker said.