Class 4A Chesterton Sectional championship: Hobart 3, Portage 2
Portage put the tying run 90 feet away in the seventh inning of Monday's championship, at which point Hobart coach Bob Glover, Jr. reminded his team of something important.
"I was hollering, 'They've still got to score,'" Glover said after the 3-2 win. "It was like they had all the momentum, but (pitcher) Brandon (Murray) is so hard to hit. It's a situation where all they need is contact, but I've watched him miss so many bats, strike out so many guys over the years, there's nobody else in the state I'd want on the mound."
Murray responded with two strikeouts, both on curve balls, to end the game. He had 10 for the game.
"We know those guys can hit," Glover said. "We knew it wouldn't be easy. They got some good swings on some fastballs. He knew this wasn't going to be a game where he could just muscle up and blow it by them. They're too good for that. He really needed to throw his curve ball for strikes."
Murray said he set a personal goal of studying Portage hitting tendencies the first time through the batting order and remembering them so he could use it to his advantage over the course of the game.
"Basically, they made it obvious what to throw," Murray said. "I relied a lot on my off-speed. I've heard the term 'effectively wild' often. Overall, I've made significant improvement in my control from my sophomore, junior years. That was a heavy emphasis in the off-season."
Hobart students tried to take advantage of the celebratory mood after the championship to persuade Glover to cancel his history final at school. Glover laughed but said wasn't going to happen.
"That probably wouldn't fly with my boss," he said.
Portage was wavering just above the .500 mark around mid-season before going on a 7-1 run that it carried into the sectional, where it knocked off Chesterton and Crown Point before pushing Hobart to the brink.
"I can't ask for any more in terms of how they handled the situation," Indians coach Tim Pirowski said. "I'm most proud of the seniors and the way they came together at the end of the year. We had a hard road, and we beat two teams we probably weren't supposed to beat. It's a tribute to the seniors, that we got things going at the right time when we needed it."
Chesterton coach Jack Campbell brought a Jugs radar gun to the game, which provided a source of entertainment in the press box, with Murray and Portage's Kevin Jones pitching. Murray topped out at 93 miles per hour, consistently working around 90 with his hard stuff. Jones maxxed at 86, generally throwing about 83.
Hobart handled the expectations of being the favorite well.
"I don't think they felt a lot of pressure," Glover said. "It's like what I tell the guys, 'What's the worst thing that can happen if you lose? You'll still wake up tomorrow. You'll all go on with your life."