GARY | The selection process for four local players to take the chance to show off for college coaches Tuesday was rigorous.
First, they were nominated for the Crossroads Series Showcase held last month at Indiana University. Of the 1,000 players from across the state nominated, only 100 are selected for the showcase.
Of the 100 that participate in the showcase and subsequent games, the top 20 are picked for an all-star series that kicked off Tuesday at U.S. Steel Yard.
From the area, Bishop Noll's Larry Crisler joined Kevin Jones and Chris Klenk from Portage on Team Indiana.
Munster's Alex Del Rio was granted a spot on Team Ohio when Ohio came up short of outfielders.
The locals had a distinct advantage.
"When you drive to Bloomington, you're staying in a hotel, it's not a lot of luxury," Klenk said. "We have an advantage to wake up in our own beds and have a nice breakfast and be where we're comfortable at home."
Indiana advanced to the title game with a 7-6 win over Ohio in the first game. The championship will be played at 3 p.m. today with the consolation game at noon.
Jones, who is weighing several Division I offers, opened the game with a pair of strikeouts and allowed a run to Ohio.
Crisler broke a bat, had two hits, a stolen base and drove in a run for defending champion Indiana. Klenk scored a run and had a hit for Indiana, which won the game in the seventh inning.
For Ohio, Del Rio had a hit off Jones, scored later in the sixth inning and reached in all three at-bats.
Though DelRio played in the outfield for the Mustangs during the high school season, he had the opportunity to show colleges multiple positions as he also played at first base and caught for Ohio.
"It allows you to show you're athletic, that you're not just a one-dimensional guy," Jones said. "It's great to show you can go both ways."
The championship tournament, which comes after the Crossroads Series in each of the four states, gives college coaches a second look at each of the players they had previously seen.
"A lot of these showcases they play 'showcase' games where they limit the number of hits you get, or number of hitters a pitcher sees, this is a real game," said Eric Blakeley, owner of St. John-based* Diamond Kings and the architect of the Crossroads Series.
"This is an event where guys come together for their state and try to win it with some of the best guys from their state."
The series started in Indiana in 2009 and slowly grew to neighboring states. Blakeley said he hopes to add more states by next year, branching into Wisconsin or Kentucky.
"We don't want to get too big, too fast," he said. "What's important for us is the best-run events so that kids can have the best possible experience."
The players used wood bats donated by MDS Baseball Bats* in Tuesday's game, which speeds up innings.
In addition, wood bats give college coaches a chance to see how players hit with a bat with less pop than the BBCOR bats used in high school games.
*Story corrected from an earlier version. The Times regrets the error.