LAPORTE — A rain delay in the top of the first inning resulted in the Class 4A LaPorte Regional championship game between Lake Central and Mishawaka, which started Saturday night, being postponed. When play resumed Monday, the Cavemen were ready.
Mishawaka earned a 2-0 victory over the Indians to secure its third straight shutout of the postseason and first regional title in 22 years. The Cavemen will take on Hamilton Southeastern (21-8) in the semistate championship Saturday.
"Lake Central is a great team, and we just happened to capitalize at the right time," Mishawaka coach John Huemmer said.
The Cavemen (25-6) recorded their only two runs in the bottom of the first. Senior Grant Jablonski scored on an error, while fellow senior AJ Rosebush was brought home on an RBI double from junior Derrick Dawson. The Indians had a few opportunities to respond and extend their season but weren't able to take advantage.
In the top of the fourth, Lake Central loaded the bases with no outs. Senior Ian Lukowski, who batted cleanup, came to the plate with hopes of helping his team get on the board but came up empty.
He hit into a 1-2-3 double play and the next batter, junior Hunter Zezovski, stuck out to close out the inning. Indians coach Mike Swartzentruber said he doesn't blame any of his players for not coming up with a momentum-swinging hit and commended Mishawaka for getting out of the jam.
"You don't want to hit into a double play there, but if you hit that anywhere else you at least get a run," Swartzentruber said. "It was just one of those nights. We had a lot of stuff on Mishawaka. We thought we were prepared, and they did a lot of the stuff we expected."
After the loss, Swartzentruber addressed his entire team for about 20 minutes and then spent another few minutes specifically talking to his eight seniors. Senior Evan Hand sat just a few feet away from his head coach and when Swartzentruber finished, he got up and gave him a hug while they both wiped tears from their eyes.
"I told them they were the first group that ever made me cry," Swartzentruber said.
In the bottom of the third, Hand fielded a single in center field from Cavemen senior and Taylor University commit Sam Shively and threw fellow senior Nick Bodle out at home to keep Lake Central within striking distance. He said it was fitting to have a play like that in the last game of his prep career but never envisioned the Indians' season concluding with just two hits in a shutout.
Despite the lackluster end, Hand said he was still proud of what his team accomplished and how it came together. Lake Central (24-7) won its third consecutive sectional championship and 20th sectional title overall. The Indians also dedicated their season to former pitcher and 2018 graduate Marty Ewing, who was paralyzed after being shot in South Bend in April.
"All of our teams have been super close," Hand said. "But I think that was one thing that kept this team even closer than a normal team. We told each other everything, and we're basically brothers."