PLYMOUTH | As Noblesville players rushed to the home bleachers to sing the school song, Lake Central was still ready to go.
The Indians were still ready to fight, still ready to battle, still eager to live on the fine line of success and failure that this sport doesn’t have to paint anywhere because it’s as prevalent as the oxygen.
Unfortunately for Lake Central the scoreboard said otherwise.
As the Millers marched on to next weekend’s state finals against Terre Haute North with a 4-3 win at Saturday’s Class 4A Plymouth Semistate, Lake Central was lamenting what could have been while stepping back to admire what really was.
“In the season it was shaky,” senior Alec Olund said. “We didn’t have that trust in each other. We really didn’t know what was going to happen, but we turned it around. We found each other. We found our chemistry. We found ways to win ball games. We found the timely hits. We found the plays.
"Everything started jelling at the right time, and one game away from Victory Field, and we lose 4-3 to a team that's No. 1 in the state and eighth in the Midwest.”
Lake Central began the season 6-8, setting a high mark for losses to start a season under coach Jeff Sandor before Easter weekend. The team turned a corner after attaining a mark of 10-9. From early May to Saturday the Indians won 13 of 14 games.
Home runs were not plentiful.
Outside of Brenden Seren, there weren’t an abundance of Division I-ready arms. Lake Central won with defense and aggressive base running and for the first time in quite a while, station-to-station small ball.
The Indians (23-10) also refused to lose, as evidenced by their regional championship win that started with a 4-1 deficit and ended in victory.
After a handful of highlight-reel defensive plays, a throwing error broke a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning when Noblesville (27-8) turned a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 lead. Small ball stalled a few times as Lake Central stranded nine runners and ended the sixth with Purdue-bound Olund being caught stealing right after he had singled to cut the lead to 4-3.
He said he’ll remember the play for a while but won’t live his life regretting taking a risk.
Nonetheless, the Indians had the tying run 180 feet from home plate in the seventh when the final batter popped out near the left field foul line to end the game.
“It’s just been one of those seasons where we were hit or miss in the beginning, doubted by everybody, not ranked by anybody, and everyone kind of overlooked us, and we kind of kept that in the back of our head all year long,” Olund said.
"“It’s a game of failure and short-term memory, and you always have to have one.”
Lake Central was Northwest Indiana’s final 4A team for three straight years.
“We played pretty darn good baseball since the early parts of May, and I’m prouder than heck of these guys for what they’ve accomplished, what this means for our school,” Sandor said.
“The biggest positive I take away is how these guys fought through everything we went through together -- from waking up at 3:45 in the morning Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in January to still playing on June 14.”