INDIANAPOLIS | It’s hard to label Jimmy McNamara and Taylor Lehnert as No. 1 or No. 2 pitchers out of Lake Central’s pitching rotation.
Both are more than capable of completely shutting down an opponent’s offense and are equally adept at fooling hitters.
So, when the decision was made to start McNamara in Saturday’s 1-0 Class 4A state championship game victory over Indianapolis Roncalli, it was no surprise to anybody.
However, that meant Lehnert didn’t get a chance to pitch in the most important game of his high school career, a move that ate at Lake Central coach Jeff Sandor a little bit.
“I talked about it, and that’s one of the most painful things, if there is a painful thing about winning a state championship,” Sandor said. “For the betterment of the team, we had to stick with (McNamara).”
Ever the consummate team player, Lehnert knew the situation. McNamara was nearly unhittable and he would only enter the game if the situation called for it.
"That was the plan, but Jim was obviously pitching well so there was no need for it," Lehnert said of possibly entering the game. "It’s kind of like, dang, you know? We won state, so that's all that matters. I'm for the team 100 percent. It would have been great to do it, but it doesn’t matter."
McNamara saw Lehnert warming up every time he looked over there, but it didn’t faze the starter one bit.
"I kept seeing Taylor warm up and I wanted to have the swagger to look at him and tell him to sit down, like, 'I got this, Tay,'" McNamara said with a grin. 'This was all of our day, this wasn’t just my day, this was all of our day."
Even though Lehnert didn't get to pitch Saturday, few words can describe what his efforts off the mound meant for Lake Central’s season.
He threw 18 2/3 innings in the postseason and didn't give up an earned run. He ended his season 11-0 with an earned run average of 0.69.
Perhaps his most important effort came in Lake Central's 4-3 semistate championship win over Zionsville, when he threw 4.1 innings of one-hit baseball after McNamara struggled a little bit.
"As a player, he's meant everything,” Sandor said. "He threw our sectional championship game, he threw our regional championship game.
He got the win in our semistate. He was everything for us. I know he wanted that ball and I know he deserved a shot at that ball, but it’s hard to change that. You've got 4,500 people in the stands; you never know what's going to happen."
Coming through with a state title this season couldn’t have meant more for Lehnert, who will go on to pitch at Central Michigan.
"Last year wasn't our greatest season," he said. "It meant a lot having a good summer and carrying that over. We got the job done and it's a good way to go out. It’s one thing for me to do (well), but for the team to do well it’s an amazing thing because we’ve been together for so long."