CHESTERTON — The Duneland Athletic Conference title was on the line Wednesday when Lake Central's baseball team traveled to Chesterton, and it wasn't a hit or walk that ultimately made the difference.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning, Lake Central junior Jared Bais was hit on a 2-2 count with a Steve Gilbertson pitch, which forced across the game-winning run.
The Indians took home the DAC crown with the 4-3 victory.
“I’ve never been as proud as a team,” L.C. coach Mike Swartzentruber said. “We are 21-4 and conference champs.”
Chesterton (14-7, 10-4) struck first in the game in the bottom of the second. Junior second baseman Logan Lawson doubled with two outs and junior first baseman Chris Torres singled to bring him home the Trojans' first run.
The lead didn’t last long.
Lake Central senior shortstop Connor Tomasic singled to begin the third inning. He then stole second and a wild pitch from Trojan junior starting pitcher Grant Brunt sent him over to third. A few batters later, and L.C. (20-4, 11-3) had runners on the corners and one out.
Connor Hoffman stepped up to the plate and launched a two-run double over freshman right fielder Tyler Nelson’s head. Brunt threw another wild pitch to give up his third run before ending the inning.
Those three innings were all Brunt would see, as Gilbertson came in to try and slow down the hot bats of the Indians. He retired the side in order in the fourth.
Chesterton would strike back in the bottom of the sixth from the big bat of, once again, Torres. He rocketed a two-run home run to left field to even up the score.
After the wild top of the seventh, the Trojans had one last gasp to try and stay alive. With two outs, Chesterton had a runner on first and tried to advance him to second to put him in scoring position. However, when the steal was attempted, LC junior catcher Hunter Zahorsky whipped a ball to second for the out.
“I was hoping he was going to steal,” Zahorsky said. “I knew I would get him out.”
Swartzentruber said it’s nice to know they don’t have to worry about other team’s running game because of the arm of his catcher, “Z.”
With sectionals just 10 days away, the Indians know there’s still more things to focus on.
“I think we have to sharpen up our defense,” said senior left fielder Giovanni Lopez, who began the seventh inning rally with a double. “We need to put the ball in play, cause chaos and get on base any way we can.”
When Swartzentruber and Chesterton coach Jack Campbell shook hands after the game. They both said they wouldn’t be surprised if the two conference foes meet again in the postseason.