MERRILLVILLE | After watching another Michigan City runner zoom by him to cross the plate, Crown Point catcher Bobby Morgan was determined to do something to awaken his team.
“I wanted to go up there and just spark something,” Morgan said. “We weren’t dead, but we weren’t playing our game.”
Morgan hit a two-run home run to left field to break a 3-3 tie in the fifth inning and help defending champion Crown Point avoid an epic upset and beat Michigan City 7-3 on Wednesday in the second quarterfinal of the Class 4A Merrillville Sectional at Bill Metcalf Field.
“That definitely sparked us,” Morgan said after being hit with a shaving cream pie by a teammate.
The Bulldogs (27-4), who trailed 3-1 entering the bottom of the fifth, play Valparaiso at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the semifinal round.
Morgan, one of four players making his first prep postseason start for Crown Point, came from Andrean and sat out last postseason due to transfer rules, but the junior’s first postseason hit was a key one.
In late April, he suffered a concussion after an on-field collision, and he finally has his timing back.
“Today was his day,” C.P. coach Steve Strayer said. “It’s probably going to have to be someone else against Valpo. That’s how our lineup is.”
Crown Point’s four-run fifth inning started innocently enough with Brett Bayer being hit by a pitch. Joe Hopman, who scored on Morgan’s homer, also took a beaning.
“We did not allow ourselves to choke,” Strayer said. “The guys went up and kept battling and battling, and that’s tough to do when your season’s on the line.”
After Michigan City added a third run in the top of the fifth, some folks in attendance began to search for historical precedent, such as Michigan City’s last huge postseason win.
Michigan City ace Andrew Ray had been fired up after his RBI triple put his team up 3-1, but after Morgan’s homer his gaze was perpendicular to the ground for several moments.
“It was a grind,” Morgan said. “We played the game right and figured him out. I knew I’d get a chance to drive guys in, and I noticed he was starting with a curveball and then going to a fastball. On the second fastball I jumped on it.”
The Wolves (13-13) made eight errors, and Crown Point stranded six runners and managed just three hits through the first four innings against Ray. C.P. starter Zach Plesac struck out three of the four batters he faced in the sixth, and the Wolves never had momentum again.
Plesac fanned 12, including the final five, in his first postseason start on the mound.
“It’s disappointing because we’ve shown signs we can play with the best,” M.C. coach David Ortiz said. “We knew we could do it, and this was definitely a testament to where we’re going.”