Varsity Baseball | May 2, 2018

James, Lake Central shut out LaPorte

ST. JOHN — There’s a fine line between self assurance and arrogance on a baseball field.

Lake Central sophomore Alex James seems to have found it.

“I like him from the standpoint that he has a little moxie,” Indians coach Mike Swartzentruber said. “He’s got a little of (Zack) Dobos in him where he’s confident but not overconfident. He doesn’t look nervous. The moment doesn’t seem to be too big for him.”

James continued his breakout season Wednesday, teaming with Marty Ewing and Ryan Ruberry on a four-hit, 9-0 blanking of Times No. 7 LaPorte. It was his fourth Duneland Athletic Conference victory, a span of outings in which he’s allowed only one run.

“I’ve been progressively sharper since my first couple starts,” James said. “My first innings are rough but as the game progresses, I start to relax and just get it done. My fastball was on. I was painting the corners, like I was told to do. My changeup was really working. I know I don’t have to strike everybody out. Knowing I can rely on (the defense) to make the routine plays, even the spectacular plays, makes me feel better up there.”

That was the case again for James, who only fanned one over an 46 pitches. He would gone more than five innings were it not for a near-hour lightning delay.

“He’s not going to scare anyone,” Swartzentruber said. “He changes speeds. He doesn’t walk guys. They put it in play but there weren’t a ton of hard-hit balls. It was a lot of weak ground balls and lazy popups.”

No. 3 Lake Central (14-3, 8-2 Duneland Conference) broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the third, adding four in the fourth and two in the fifth off Noah Mathias after he had retired seven in a row to start the game.

“We’ve gotten a lot of first-inning runs,” Swartzentruber said. “It took us a few innings to get going, but we’ve scored first in like 14, 15 games.”

The Indians third was triggered by Evan Hand’s deep fly ball to right field that was misplayed into a triple. A missed grounder to first with the bases loaded fanned the flames in the fourth.

“We’ve got to get out of this funk somehow,” LaPorte coach Scott Upp said. “Baseball’s a funny game. Our defense has been fairly decent. I told them during the delay there’s no reason to not field a ground ball or catch a fly ball. We thought (Tuesday’s six errors) was a fluke. We’re our own worst enemy right now. It’s frustrating, dumbfounding, if that’s word.”

Justin Graves singled in a run in the third and two in the fourth. Jared Bais, who came in hitting .519 with one strikeout on the season, added two hits, along with Conner Hoffman.

“Everyone’s just really seeing the ball and hitting it hard right now,” Graves said. “We’ve got good two-strike approaches. Everyone’s confident in each other to keep it going. One through nine in the lineup, anybody can make things happen.”

Nolan Lorenz had two hits for LaPorte (11-7, 5-5).

“Once you get through our top three or three, we’re making it pretty easy on pitching staffs,” Upp said.

No. 3 Lake Central 9, No. 7 LaPorte 0

Justin Graves drove in three runs for the Indians.

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