VALPARAISO | Things started to change for the Portage softball team in the fourth inning after coach Lisa Hayes told her team to get excited.
Ahead 3-0 on only three hits, the Indians exploded for seven runs in the fourth inning, propelling them to a 12-2 six-inning Duneland Athletic Conference victory over Valparaiso on Tuesday.
"The girls were like, 'We're not hitting anything,' and I told them that they can do this," Hayes said. "Sometimes it's just lighting the fire underneath them, and then they're OK."
Alexis Johnson belted a two-run home run to left field, her first of the season, to put the Indians up 5-0 over the Vikings (5-13, 2-8).
"It was very exciting," Johnson said. "I got a hit-and-run signal from my coach, and then I was watching it go, and I was like, 'It's gone!'"
Lauren Murray later added a three-run shot to put the Indians ahead 10-0. It was Murray's third homer of the season.
"Once we got going, we really got going," Hayes said. "We had three beautiful home runs today. Once those happened, then everyone starts hitting."
Portage (9-5, 5-3) scored two more runs in the sixth inning. Haley Hodges hit her third homer of the season to left field, and Kiley Jones doubled to center field, allowing Rachel Ortiz-Zabloudil to complete the scoring.
"I want to credit them," Valparaiso coach Tracy Corneil said of the Indians. "They are an excellent ball hitting club. They hit the ball strong. You knew they were going to hit the ball. They really broke out.
"Our pitcher was hitting spots, and they were hitting balls where it worked for them."
Valpo pitcher Evann Grabow went the distance, allowing 11 hits and three walks, while striking out three.
Heather Zengler earned the complete-game win for the Indians. She allowed three hits and three walks while fanning eight.