2024, Varsity Baseball | June 3, 2024

Lake Central wins tight one at Gary Steelyard to secure regional championship

nwitimes.com – David P. Funk

GARY — Quinn O’Bryan spent some time down in the order, but the Lake Central senior has come on lately in the two hole.

He had the big hit in the first inning Monday, poking a single through to plate Nick Robinson.

O’Bryan worked the count to 3-1 and then said he was sitting on a fastball, despite the fact Trojans starter Troy Barrett threw a lot of off-speed pitches during the regular season meeting.

“We noticed that he was a little more fastball-heavy pitcher later in the year,” he said. “We got into the game knowing that and I jumped on a fastball.”

The Indians held onto that lead and topped Duneland Athletic Conference foe Chesterton 2-0 in the Class 4A Griffith regional at the Steel Yard.

“It’s a big, long season. Every win definitely matters,” O’Bryan said. “Bringing a regional title home is definitely an accomplishment.”

Another decisive play came in the sixth inning when, with the bases loaded and no outs, Chesterton senior Jason Bogner hit a ball back to Lake Central pitcher Griffin Tobias. The throw took first baseman Brendan Smith off the back and into the path of Bogner, who tripped over Smith’s leg and flipped over the base.

The umpire initially called Bogner safe, but then Smith tagged him and he was called out.

“I thought we kind of got a break on that play at first,” LC coach Mike Swartzentruber said. “That was a huge play.”

Tobias went literally as far as he could go in the game. Another batter and he would’ve been over the 120-pitch limit. Swartzentruber said he didn’t even consider taking his ace out when he made a late trip to the mound.

“We had two really, really good pitchers warming up but he’s my guy. I’m going to run with him til he’s either run out of pitches or he’s out of gas,” the LC skipper said. “I know he’s not going to run out of gas.”

Tobias, an Indiana commit, struck out 11 over seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits and walking three. He said he didn’t have his best control. He had five walks on the season coming into the game.

“I was struggling a little bit but sometimes you’ve got to be effectively wild. I think that’s what got me through this game,” he said. “I was just trying to find the zone at first. I had no idea where the ball was going and I was happy to get through this game.”

The regular season series between the Trojans and Indians was split, with each winning at home. Tobias allowed seven runs during his first start against Chesterton, by far the most he allowed all year.

“They know us. We know them. A lot of preparation leading up to this,” O’Bryan said. “Hats off to Troy Barrett. We spent the week preparing for him and we got the win.”

Lake Central (22-9) will play Westfield in the semistate semifinal Saturday. Tobias will have one fewer day of rest from the Shamrocks pitchers, but Swartzentruber wasn’t concerned.

“(Tobias) is a gamer. He’ll want the ball. I know that. But we’ve got maybe the best arm in the state who hasn’t thrown an inning in the state tournament for us, yet, because we’ve been waiting to use him in relief in Josh Flores,” Swartzentruber said. “He’s got better stuff than Tobias. He just doesn’t have the control.”

Chesterton finished the season 22-7.

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