Council Rock North's Darren Lauer is hoping to use this summer to showcase his pitching skills to college coaches.
Lauer, a hard-throwing junior righthander, jump-started the process with a strong outing in Thursday's PIAA District 1 Class AAAA championship game against West Chester Henderson.
Keeping the Indians close until their bats sprung to life late, Lauer scattered five singles and struck out eight as Council Rock North topped Henderson, 4-1, in eight innings at Radnor High for the program's first district title since 2003.
"Darren was just on today," Indians coach Dan Kusters said. "As the year has progressed, he's gotten better and better. He's down in the zone and able to locate his pitches."
The 6-foot, 180-pound Lauer mixed a two-seam fastball, clocked in the 84- to 86-m.p.h. range, change-up and curveball. He threw 103 pitches, 71 for strikes.
"It was one of those days for me," Lauer said. "Everything fell right into place. All of my pitches were working."
Council Rock North (22-2) will open the state tournament Monday against District 3's third-place finisher at a site and time to be determined. Henderson will begin state play versus District 12 runner-up Central, an 11-4 loser Thursday to Monsignor Bonner.
The Warriors (21-4) took a 1-0 lead into the seventh. The Indians forced extra innings when Benn Parker, who had led off with a single to center field, scored on Ryan Henritzy's one-out single to left-center.
Ryan Hartley started the visiting eighth with a single to center, moved to second on Tom Filer's sacrifice, and sprinted home from there, with what turned out to be the winning run, on Dave Pine's looping double that dropped inside the left-field line.
Council Rock North added two insurance runs. Pinch-hitter Keith Terry drove in Pine with a hard-hit single past shortstop Sean McCormick, and Mike Festa, running for Terry, stole home on a passed ball. Pitcher Brad McCollester was waiting to make the tag, but Festa faked him out by going wide left.
"All of our guys rip the ball," Lauer said, "so I was confident that we would eventually get a few runs. It's so much easier as a pitcher when you know you're going to get the runs."
Through six innings, Henderson lefthander Kyle Hooven held the Indians to five hits and struck out eight. Hooven was lifted after Terry's eighth-inning hit.
"I thought we were taking too many pitches, not putting the ball in play," Kusters said. "Once we changed our approach and stayed back, we were able to put the bat on the ball a little."
The Warriors' second-inning run, which came on McCormick's RBI single to right-center, was unearned.
In 2005, Lauer was one of eight current Council Rock North players to compete for the Council Rock Newtown squad that advanced to the Little League World Series in Williamsport. The Mid-Atlantic champions went 1-2 in pool play.
"It was so much fun to be there," Lauer said. "That was our goal, to get to Williamsport. It was amazing that we achieved that."
Council Rock North 00000013 - 4103
W.C. Henderson 01000000 - 151
WP: Darren Lauer. LP: Kyle Hooven. 2B: CRN-Mike Tentilucci, Dave Pine.