Lazerus: LC’s Jimmy McNamara wants shot at ‘revenge’
By Mark Lazerus 648-3140 or firstname.lastname@example.org May 30, 2012 6:46PM
Jeffrey D. Nicholls/Post-Tribune Mark Lazerus Post-Tribune sports editor
Updated: July 6, 2012 8:50AM
Lake Central coach Jeff Sandor doesn’t quite know whom he wants to start against Elkhart Central in the LaPorte Regional semifinals on Saturday.
Jimmy McNamara has a suggestion.
“I want the ball,” he said.
Badly. Almost desperately.
In the last two years, McNamara has had one bad game. Just one. It came in the regional last season. It came at LaPorte’s Schreiber Field. It came against Elkhart Central. It came in the 1 p.m. game.
Three-hundred and sixty-four days later, Lake Central is back in the regional. At Schreiber Field. Against Elkhart Central. In the 1 p.m. game.
“We’re looking for revenge,” McNamara said. “I’m definitely going to be geeked up for that game.”
McNamara surely will play. The question is will he be on the mound, or will co-ace Taylor Lehnert — who blanked Highland in Monday’s sectional championship, and who relieved McNamara in the regional last year — get the call?
“I don’t know yet,” Sandor said. “We’ve got a little bit of an idea. We had our freshman coach seeing them (Monday night) for us. We’ve got three scouting reports on them, so we’re going to take all that information and try to put the best lineup together.”
Most of Elkhart Central’s batting order is back this year. The same batting order that scored seven times in the third inning of an 8-3 upset of Lake Central, chasing McNamara after just seven outs.
The lanky lefty had yielded one earned run in his 10 other starts combined.
“I remember a lot of it,” McNamara said. “It went so bad so fast.”
Said Sandor: “I try not to relive that one too much.”
McNamara was pitching on short rest (four days) for the first time in last year’s regional. This year, Sandor made sure his ace was prepared, throwing him on short rest twice — after throwing three innings against Valparaiso on a Thursday, McNamara three-hit Cathedral two days later.
“I think we do a good job of resting their arms — you have to, you’re priming them for this time of year,” Sandor said. “If you look at other teams’ top guys, I’m guessing ours haven’t thrown as many innings.”
But McNamara wasn’t even needed in Monday’s sectional semifinals and finals. So he’s rested, and raring to go.
And he really wants the ball.
“Definitely,” he said.
But the happy dilemma Sandor has is that he has two genuine aces. McNamara is 8-1 with a 0.72 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 58 innings. Lehnert is 9-0 with a 0.77 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 63 innings.
Both are headed to Central Michigan next season.
“I think it’s a huge advantage,” McNamara said. “I think me and Taylor are two of the best pitchers in the state, and I don’t think any other team can say that. So I think it’s a huge advantage. We have two aces instead of one.”
Sandor, naturally, won’t make his choice public until Saturday afternoon. He wants to keep Elkhart Central in the dark as long as possible. And while McNamara understandably is champing at the bit for another crack at Elkhart Central, Sandor knows better than to make such a decision based on emotion alone.
Besides, if Lehnert gets the ball in the semifinal, McNamara expects a pretty decent consolation prize.
“We’ll trust Taylor,” he said. “And then I’ll get to throw the championship game.”
Doing double duty
Like most high school football coaches, Valparaiso’s Dave Coyle is meeting with his staff every day, planning summer workouts, and making sure his players are getting their workouts in.
Of course, he’s also preparing the Vikings baseball team for Penn in the first LaPorte Regional semifinal.
“My day starts at 4:30 almost every morning, and I’m getting home late,” Coyle said. “I’m doing it, I love it, and I’m doing both for balance, to make sure one’s not cheating the other. I have two phenomenal staffs that make my life easier.”
When Coyle — Valparaiso’s longtime defensive coordinator — was appointed Mark Hoffman’s successor as head football coach, he said he’d re-evaluate his decision to stay on as head baseball coach after each year. Merrillville’s Zac Wells, for one, gave up baseball to focus on football.
But based on the smile on Coyle’s face moments after his Vikings dumped a bucket of ice water on his head to celebrate their sectional championship on Monday, it doesn’t look like he wants to give it up just yet.
“I can’t thank my family enough,” he said. “I see my wife for longer than three hours at a time maybe once a week. She’s awesome. They know what we’ve gotten into. And we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it.”
Around the horn
Much like Lake Central, Andrean has a chance to avenge a bitter — and surprising — regional defeat. If the 59ers can get past NCC rival Griffith in the semifinal, and Mishawaka Marian knocks off Western, the 3A Plymouth Regional would be a rematch of last year’s 5-2 Andrean loss. … Thanks in large part to the new BBCOR bats, only seven players in the region hit at least four home runs during the entire regular season. South Central’s Garrett Walter — one of those seven — hit four on Monday alone in a pair of sectional victories. … Kudos to the IHSAA for granting Whiting a regional. Hard to imagine that Bishop Luers is particularly thrilled about having to drive all the way from Fort Wayne to the farthest northwest corner of Indiana for a regional — not a semistate, but a regional. But once the Knights see beautiful Oil City Stadium, maybe they’ll understand.