ST. JOHN | Lake Central's baseball team boasted not one, but two pitching aces. One A, and One B they'd be called.
Just don't ask which was A and which was B.
Taylor Lehnert's offseason accolades include a spot on the IHSBCA All-State team and North All-Star team. Jimmy McNamara pitch a shutout in the state championship and was named the Class 4A Mental Attitude Award winner.
Lehnert is a righty who can throw a power game, and his fastball whispered at 93 miles per hour on the radar gun this season. McNamara is a lefty, who throws a finesse game, massaging all areas of the plate to strike out 124 batters in 76 2/3 innings this season.
"If you looked at their stats, they're dead-on together," Lake Central coach Jeff Sandor said. "They're within two or three innings pitched of each other. That was the plan, to throw this guy this much and that guy that much and let them work it out, but we really went into that last game, and we didn't know which one was better. Not to say that one was better, but it's about making the right choice that day."
The pair were named Co-Players of the Year by The Times, the first Lake Central baseball players to earn the distinction since Neal Frendling in 1998.
Both players say they fed off of each other's success, while learning where the other had difficulties.
They continued to play a season-long game of "anything you can do, I can do better."
McNamara struck out 15 in a five-inning perfect game against Lowell. Two games later, Lehnert struck out 17 in a seven-inning no-hitter against Hanover Central.
In the semistate game against Zionsville, McNamara struck out six in 4 2/3 innings, leaving the game after allowing two fifth-inning runs and a runner on second base. When Lehnert joined the game, he forced out the final batter in the fifth, then struck out seven over the next four innings as Lake Central rallied to force extras and earned the win.
"We were pushing each other every day, trying to one-up each other every day, that competitiveness is what me and Jimmy really thrive on. We're true competitors," Lehnert said. "We're real good friends, but as a pitching staff, you always want to be one better than what he has."
"It's nice to have Taylor. It took a lot of pressure off from (junior) year," McNamara said. "It's nice to have him come in and be as good as he was."
Both are headed to Central Michigan in the fall. They expect that rivalry to continue and said they are good friends off the field, though they hang in different circles at school, and will be rooming together in Mount Pleasant. They hope to be 1A and 1B there, too.
"We hope so. That's a nice problem to have, because it means we're both having good seasons," McNamara said.
Sandor said he fully expects to see both of them earn a professional paycheck someday.
"In my mind, they'll both still be playing baseball years from now," Sandor said, "and hopefully earn a nice payday doing it."