Big picture: Lexi Benko did the damage both at the plate and in the circle for Times No. 3 Chesterton on Wednesday as the Trojans opened Duneland Athletic Conference play with a 3-1 win at No. 2 Lake Central.
“I was going out there, opening day, knowing that this is going to be one of the toughest games we’re going to have all year,” Benko said. “I was just going out there with a lot of energy, willing to fight.”
Chesterton was ranked No. 12 in Class 4A in the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association preseason poll. The Indians were No. 2.
“This is one of the big rivalries,” Benko said. “We’re going out there wanting to win with a new team, new coaches, excited for sure.”
It’s the first DAC win for Chesterton coach Dan Lynch, who took the reins form longtime coach Louann Hopson this season.
“I think this is a tough conference. LC and (Crown Point) are always the top teams in the area and I think we’re right there,” Chesterton coach Dan Lynch said. “I think the girls are responding to us very well. They’re believing in themselves and I think that’s an important part of this game.”
Turning Point: Chesterton scored three runs on two hits and an error in the fourth inning. Lake Central sophomore pitcher Grace Renschen threw a ball to second base to try to get Maddie Snemis but it was in the dirt.
“I like Grace trying to be aggressive right there,” Indians coach Jeff Sherman said. “It’s the kind of game when you know there’s going to be one run somewhere. That lead runner could be the difference.”
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Benko drove in the first run with a single to center that brought in Snemis. Grimm and Benko crossed the plate on a wild pitch and a passed ball.
Chesterton player of the game: Benko — The senior pitcher threw a complete game, allowing four hits, one walk and one run while striking out four. She had an RBI and a scored on a passed ball.
Lake Central player of the game: Junior outfielder Morgan Hoppe — She drove in the only Indians run with a double in the seventh inning.
Quote: “I’m not sure anybody in the state, in their first two games, saw two Division I pitchers,” Sherman said. “We saw Dayton Elliot (from Munster) last night, who did a great job against us, and obviously (Benko) is just outstanding. There’s a reason that she’s at the level that she is.”
Elliot is committed to Northern Illinois. Benko will pitch at Indiana State.
Beyond the box score: The Indians topped the Trojans three times last season, including a 2-1 regional win.The teams will meet again April 23 in Chesterton.
Up next: Chesterton (2-0, 1-0 DAC) at Griffith, 5 p.m. Thursday; Penn at Lake Central (1-1, 0-1), 5 p.m. Thursday.