A constant reminder: Lake Central motivated by last year's walk-off loss in regional to Penn
ST. JOHN -- On occasion, Griffin Tobias has sympathy for what opposing pitchers are up against in facing Lake Central's lineup.
"They're going against the top hitters in the state, (Matt) Santana, (Josh Adamczewski), (Hunter) Snyder," the Indians ace said. "I hate throwing to them in practice. They light me up a lot. We have scrimmages, and I've gotten 'Adams' out one time. Other than that, he's hit balls over the scoreboard on me. I feel for them sometimes in the dugout. They're so tough, especially when they know me."
Class 4A No. 3 LC (9-1, 5-0) greeted La Porte ace RJ Anglin with a walk and three hits that netted three quick runs that proved to be plenty for the Indians right-hander, who two-hit the Slicers in a 5-0 Duneland Conference shutout Tuesday.
"It helps when you have a massive offense that puts up five," Tobias said.
Tobias whiffed 11 and walked three.
"Once I finally figured out the curve ball, everything started clicking," he said. "My slider was probably my best pitch, working off the fastball. I threw my changeup a lot to lefties, kept off balance. It looks like my fastball because it runs a little arm side. One's like a cutter, the other one's over the top. After the fourth inning, a lot of the strikeouts, it was freezing with curveballs, swinging with sliders. I had a great defense behind me, why not use them? They turned a great double play. I don't think I was at my peak. I didn't feel the best with my velocity, but it was one of those days you have to power through it."
The outing was the longest of the season for Tobias (2-1), who Swartzentruber plans to ease through some stretches this spring in hopes of having him primed for the state tournament.
"He didn't throw the first week of conference, we may not use him next week either," Swartzentruber said. "He's fine. I think with our offense and our pitching's good enough, we can toy with that. He's going to be important the end of May into June."
La Porte (8-4, 4-1) had some traffic with five baserunners in the first four innings, but couldn't do anything with them.
"I think (Tobias) and RJ are comparable," Slicers coach Scott Upp said. "I think he was very comparable to the Penn kid. We knew were going to have to hit better than we have so far this season. They just hit the ball and we took a lot of pitches again. We had four runners in scoring position in the first three innings and ended up with five strikeouts."
Its best chance came in the third when Drew Catron notched the first Slicers hit and Ben Dubbs walked. After a Carter Moses sacrifice, Tobias fanned Kade Flores and Anglin.
"That was a big inning," Swartzentruber said. "He's good. He was our 1-B by the end of (last) year. He bailed us out of the Munster and Highland games and then Penn in the regional. He can mix it up, he's got a pretty good changeup. I don't think he was quite as sharp as (he was versus) Valpo. He threw 70 pitches in five innings. He was probably 87, 89 (miles per hour) at times. (La Porte) seemed to struggle with (the breaking ball)."
Tobias has hit 93 this season, up five clicks from last season, a direct result of the 25 or so pounds he's added since then.
"Last year, I was only like 140, a little boy," he said. "I'm still little. I've been blessed. It's pretty cool throwing hard. You watch MLB games, they're all 90-plus. It's all about keeping the hitter off balance. It's a mind game. I just want to stay healthy long-term and keep growing. I feel like that's my best opportunity to make myself good."
The future's bright for the 6-foot, 170-pound Tobias, who has already committed to IU, following LC alum Matt Litwicki (now in the Red Sox organization). He could also develop into a draft-able pitcher, but he's trying to keep himself in the moment, and let that all evolve in due time.
"I've always loved (IU), and as soon as I met the coaches, I fell in love with it," Tobias said. "After that, if I get an opportunity to play pro, I would love to do that. A couple agents are contacting me. It's nothing to get my hopes up. I've got to put on the weight, make my stuff sharper. Obviously, it's in the back of my head, I'm all ears, but I've got the high school season to focus on. I've just got to keep getting better."
The same goes for Lake Central in its high aspirations.
Swartzentruber crafted a schedule to battle test his senior-laden team, traveling to Gibson Southern, Bedford North Lawrence and Bloomington South (its only loss) to start the season. It will also be hosting an eight-team tournament with Munster that includes Homestead, Indianapolis Cathedral, South Bend Adams, Mishawaka Marian and couple teams from Michigan, including Portage Northern.
"Our numbers offensively are gaudy, but our first four or five are really good," he said. "Baseball, it's one off day against a good pitcher. It's a crap shoot. We're good enough, we've just got to get some breaks."
While the post-season's a good way off, there are constant reminders of last year's regional walk-off loss to Penn, the eventual Class 4A state champion.
"There's a picture of two calls we didn't get in that game, so we've talked about that, just between us, for almost 365 days," Swartzentruber said.
Tobias and his teammates use those images as motivation.
"We don't want that to happen again," he said. "The path we're on with leadership, every-day grinding, we play every day like it's our last game. If we do that, we have a chance of winning."
Griffin Tobias threw a two-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts Tuesday against La Porte.