KOKOMO | Ryan Pachowicz has been key for Lake Central on two-out clutch hits during his entire senior baseball season.
With the bases loaded in the top of the ninth Saturday, Pachowicz didn't even have to take the bat off of his shoulders to give the Indians the 4-3 Class 4A semistate win over Zionsville. Pachowicz was hit by a pitch, driving in Nick Kellams with the winning run.
Lake Central will face Roncalli in the Indians' first-ever state championship game appearance.
"Coach (Jeff) Sandor told me before my at-bat, watch for the fast ball, but if he throws one at you, take one for the team and get the run in any way you can," Pachowicz said. "Baseball is about the little things and that little hit by pitch won us the game, pretty much. I thought for sure I was going to have to come up clutch for a single, but I didn't have to. They helped us out a little bit. We never gave up; that was the main thing."
Nothing was typical about how Lake Central (31-1) beat the Eagles (28-6). The Indians fell behind 3-1 after starter Jimmy McNamara hit a leadoff batter in the fifth and back-to-back singles scored a pair of runs.
Lake Central started the seventh as Sandor told his team not to panic.
"We got this, stay loose, stay under control, we've been in situations to score runs all game, let's get a leadoff guy on," Sandor said. "Let's hit a pop fly to their Ohio State-bound shortstop and he'll drop it. I didn't see that happening, but it doesn't matter right now. Our approach all year has been yesterday is yesterday."
A simple infield pop-up by Alec Olund was dropped by Troy Kuhn and on the next play two throwing errors by Zionsville gave Olund the run to pull within one. Pachowicz drove in Kellams on a game-tying RBI double, but Chase Fieldhouse was thrown out at home trying to score the go-ahead run.
In the bottom of the ninth, reliever Taylor Lehnert gave up the first walk to a Zionsville batter of the day, but a wild double play ended the game. After Lehnert recorded his eighth strikeout, catcher Zach Mantel threw to second to catch a runner and as second baseman Ryan Burvan and shortstop Austen Wagoner seemed to almost collide for the ball, Wagoner picked it in his glove and got the tag down in time for the out.
Zionsville starter Parker Dunshee worked eight innings and struck out 11 L.C. batters. Lehnert earned the win as seven of his eight strikeouts came consecutively in his 4 1/3 innings of work.
"Jimmy did a great job pitching; it's always good to have him to compete with and tag-team with, but they're seeing two different arms from opposite sides," Lehnert said. "It's hard on the other team to go from a lefty to a righty. I came in in a tough situation and got the job done. "