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Youth baseball/softball: Lakers eye encore effort in state tourney

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Updated: July 5, 2013 9:26PM



The LaPorte Lakers don’t have the element of surprise this summer.

It’s been a year since the Lakers ended the Hammond Chiefs’ domination of the Northern Indiana Senior Babe Ruth (16-18) state tournament in stunning fashion. LaPorte came out of the losers’ bracket, ending the Chiefs’ 82-game winning streak in state tourney play and beating Hammond twice on the final day to win the Northern Indiana title and an Ohio Valley Regional berth.

Ken Eldridge has taken over as manager this year and that’s not the only personnel change for the Lakers, who will return to the Northern Indiana state tourney after winning the District 1 title this week.

“We don’t have that dominant player we had (last year),” Eldridge said, referring to two-way standout Jake Craft.

But the Lakers do have some veterans of last year’s regional run, including pitcher Tommy Snyder, who beat the Chiefs 3-1 in the state title game and then threw a four-hit shutout in the Ohio Valley opener.

Snyder, who pitched for Ancilla College this spring, and Brody Kutch, a Purdue North Central recruit, give the Lakers a pair of capable pitchers. Kutch also has seen time in right field and at shortstop.

“He’s got a really good arm,” Eldridge said. “He’s smart, he knows what to do with the ball.”

Other mainstays for the 14-5 Lakers include catcher Blake Arnett, center fielder Mike Eldridge (the manager’s son), third baseman Tommy Byboets and left fielder Cameron Watt. Robby King, who had been away from the sport for a few years before joining the Lakers this summer as an 18-year-old, and middle infielder Trevor Draves also have contributed.

Versatility is a virtue Ken Eldridge appreciates in his players, several of whom rotate among multiple positions.

“I don’t like to pigeon-hole anybody into one spot.” the manager said.

The Lakers dropped their district opener 10-0 to Hammond Hurricanes Purple before winning three straight, including 4-3 and 2-1 victories over the Hurricanes, to defend their district title. It was the continuation of a season-long rivalry; the teams split a regular-season doubleheader in LaPorte and had their game in Hammond cut short by a hail storm.

On to state: The Northwest Indiana Rippers of Crown Point will host the Senior Babe Ruth (16-18) Northern Indiana state tourney, which begins Wednesday with games at 5:30 and 8 p.m. The first title game of the double-elimination tourney will be at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, July 14, with another game to follow if necessary.

More storm damage: Hammond’s Riverside Park was not the only local baseball field to be hit hard by last week’s storm. According to Babe Ruth administrator John Pearson, the Schererville complex also had fence and roof damage.

The Post-Tribune welcomes information about local summer baseball teams and camps. Please email story tips to mclark@suntimes.com.



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