CHESTERTON | With 10 seniors and most of its pitching graduated, Chesterton entered the season with more questions than answers.
"It was pretty much a new team," Trojans coach Jack Campbell said. "We had to see the identity that the team has."
As the Duneland Athletic Conference race reaches the backstretch, Chesterton continues to be the surprise horse in the field. The Times No. 9 Trojans outlasted No. 2 Crown Point 10-8 on Tuesday, moving into a tie for the league lead with the Bulldogs.
"This was a big deal, to show that we are for real, that we will compete," said Andrew Ralph, who went 4-for-5. "If we come out here every day and play hard and win games, the respect will come. We're in a good rhythm. If we keep hitting the ball and the pitchers throw well, good things will happen."
Sparked by Ralph's leadoff single, Chesterton (11-4, 6-1) jumped to a 5-0 lead in the first, batting around against Noah Burkholder.
C.P. (10-3, 6-1) took advantage of a strong wind blowing out to left, getting solo home runs from Alex Nickla and Glenn Hecht and a three-run shot by Zach Plesac to pull even at 6 in the fifth.
The 'Dogs were poised to take the lead in the sixth, when they put runners on second and third with one out, but Dallas Milligan escaped the jam, aided by a diving stop at second by Michael Griffin with the infield in tight.
"We had quite a few critical at-bats with guys in scoring position where we didn't come through," Crown Point coach Steve Strayer said. "I thought we were poor defensively and we were poor on the mound. If we had done one of those three things (well), we could've still won the ball game."
Chesterton scored four runs in the sixth off David Kepshire, taking the lead when Corey Rusboldt's seeing-eye grounder crept through the right side of the infield.
"They've battled like this all year," Campbell said.
Ralph and Eli Taubert singled in runs, which proved crucial as C.P. scored twice in the seventh before Matt Kubacki came on to shut the door with the tying run at the plate.
"We've had a ton of close games where we've had big innings at the end," Ralph said.
Plesac had three hits for C.P.
"We showed how vulnerable we are when we're not ready to play," Strayer said. "We had an emotional game (Monday), but if you're a championship team, you have to come back and play another emotional game. We're very inconsistent. It's very disappointing. We're an immature team. We've got no killer instinct and until we get one, we're just going to be OK."