LAPORTE — Penn had its chances.
But the Kingsmen left nine runners on base, including five in scoring position (second or third) in a 3-1 loss to No. 1-ranked Lake Central Saturday night in the Class 4A LaPorte Regional baseball tournament at Schreiber Field.
“We had them on the ropes,” said Penn coach Greg Dikos. Indians right-hander Taylor Lehnert would bend but not break.
Central Michigan University-bound Lehnert (10-0) struck out seven for the regional champions.
“We’ve got 1A and 1B,” said Lake Central coach Jeff Sandor of Lehnert and another CMU mound recruit, left-hander Jimmy McNamara. “We have a heck of a decision next Saturday (for the northern semistate).”
Junior right-hander Chad Whitmer (5-4) fanned seven for the Kingsmen.
“That kid does a good job of moving the ball around and he has good velocity,” said Sandor. “He kept a good-hitting team off-balance.”
Austin Wagoner singled in the game-tying run and Anthony Fushi cracked a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the third to put Lake Central (30-1) up 3-1.
Penn (22-11) scored an unearned run in the top of the second inning. Chad Gindelberger reached base on an error, went to second and third on consecutive sacrifices and scored on a passed ball.
“We’ve done well with this group,” said Dikos. “It took the top team in the state to take us out.
“We got the most out of these athletes. We weren’t able to hit the ball over the fence, but we had good speed and we utilized that.”
Dikos says goodbye to seven senior starters — Gindelberger, Caleb Birkey, Jordan Gosztola, Alex Hostetler, Kyle Richard, David Spalding and Tyler Thompson.
Penn advanced to the championship game with a 14-5 win against Valparaiso. Lake Central edged Elkhart Central 2-1 in the second semifinal.
The Kingsmen piled up 20 hits in defeating the Vikings in a game that featured four errors for each team. The first seven runs of the game were unearned.
Gosztola had four hits and three runs scored for Penn. Richard also rapped four hits for the Kingsmen.
“We were staying back on the ball and taking it up the middle,” said Dikos. “We had good two-strike hitting and hit well with two outs. We had been cold for awhile, but we’ve been hot in recent games.”
Winning pitcher Thompson, a left-hander, gave up two unearned runs in the third inning and worked into the seventh inning. Starter Devin Bafia absorbed the loss for Valparaiso (20-12).
Elkhart Central (24-6) led 1-0 on Cory Malcom’s first-pitch home run to left field in the second inning. Lake Central tied the game on Adam Fulk’s fourth-inning double and took the lead on Chase Fieldhouse’s first-pitch homer to left in the sixth.
McNamara beat Tanner Tully in a pitchers’ duel featuring two hard-throwing left-handers. Both went the distance and struck out seven batters.
“I’m so proud of this team,” said Blue Blazers coach Steve Stutsman. “Lake Central is No. 1 in the state and 16th in the nation. We stood toe-to-toe with them all the way through. The kids played well.
“We put the ball in play. That’s what we asked them to do. Sometimes they fall in. Sometimes they don’t.”
Lake Central had lost 8-3 to the Blazers in the semifinals of the 2011 regional.
Central loses four players — Jack Bernacchi, Ronnie Hawkins, Adam Raifsnider and Carson Volheim — to graduation.
“The four seniors on this team, they led this team to 24 wins,” said Stutsman. “We are going to miss them next year.”
4A LaPorte Regional
LAKE CENtral 3, pENN 1
Penn 010 000 0 — 1 3 1
Lake Central 003 000 x — 3 7 1
Chad Whitmer (L, 5-4; 7 strikeouts) and Jordan Gosztola; Taylor Lehnert (W, 10-0; 7 strikeouts) and Zach Mantel.
Penn: Hits — Whitmer 2, Tyler Thompson. 2B — Whitmer. Run — Chad Gindelberger. SB — Thompson.
Lake Central: Hits — Chad Fieldhouse 2, Mantel, Austen Wagoner, Ryan Pachowicz, Anthony Fushi, Adam Fulk. 2B — Pachowicz. RBI — Fushi 2, Wagoner. Runs — Fieldhouse, Wagoner, Ryan Burvan.
Umpires: Scott LaPlace, plate; David Slupczynski, first base; Mark Elias, second base; Thomas Neuenschwander, third base.
Records: Lake Central 30-1, Penn 22-11.
Next: Lake Central vs. Zionsville in Class 4A Semistate Saturday, June 9 at South Bend or Kokomo.
Penn 14, Valparaiso 5
Penn 014 030 6 — 14 20 4
Valparaiso 002 000 3 — 5 6 5
Tyler Thompson (W, 8-2), Dalton Teitsma (7) and Jordan Gosztola, Cole Deneen (7); Devin Bafia (L, 9-3), Andrew Sykes (5), John Olejniczak (7), Tyler Ingram (7) and Joey Gallinatti.
Penn: Hits — Gosztola 4, Kyle Richard 4, Chad Whitmer 3, David Spalding 3, Steven Smallwood 2, Chad Gindelberger 2, Thompson, Alex Hostetler. 3B — Smallwood. 2B — Spalding. RBI — Gindelberger 3, Smallwood, Hostetler, Whitmer, Gosztola, Spalding. Runs — Gosztola 3, Thompson 2, Whitmer 2, Richard 2, Gindelberger, Smallwood, Spalding, Andrew Wright, Collin Trowbridge. SB — Richard.
Valparaiso: Hits — Olejniczak 2, Greg Thome, Stephen Simms, Jeff Chiapai. RBI — Olejniczak, Thome. Runs — Simms 2, Olejniczak, Thome, Ethan Lehnen.
Umpires: Mark Elias, plate; Thomas Neuenschwander; first base; Scott LaPlace, second base; David Slupczynski, third base.
Record: Valparaiso 20-12.
Lake Central 2, Central 1
Central 010 000 0 — 1 4 1
Lake Central 000 101 x — 2 5 0
Tanner Tully (L, 6-2; 7 strikeouts) and Adam Raifsnider; Jimmy McNamara (W, 9-1; 7 strikeouts) and Zach Mantel.
Central: Hits — Kaleb DeFreese, Matt Eppers, Cory Malcom, Jack Bernacchi. HR — Malcom. 2B — Hawkins. RBI — Malcom. Run — Malcom. DP — 1.
Lake Central: Hits — Anthony Fushi 2, Chase Fieldhouse, Adam Fulk, Alec Gload. HR — Fieldhouse. 2B — A. Fulk. RBI — Fieldhouse, A. Fulk. Runs — Fushi, Filedhouse. SB — Ryan Burvan, Steve Fulk.
Umpires: Thomas Neuenschwander, plate; Scott LaPlace, first base; David Slupczynski, second base; Mark Elias, third base.
Record: Central 24-6.