PORTAGE | Heather Zengler was sick earlier in the week and Portage teammate Stephanie Upton had been waiting for some healthy at-bats.
So with Portage forced to play the role of visitor in its own backyard due to wet conditions at scheduled host Crown Point, the fortunes for the Indians flipped along with their spot on the scoreboard.
Zengler steadily retired Bulldogs, and Upton had three huge RBIs as the Times No. 4 Indians notched a “road” win against No. 3 Crown Point 9-3 Thursday night in Duneland Athletic Conference softball.
The Bulldogs (5-3, 4-2) had led 2-0 with one run earned and the other unearned before Portage exploded.
With four hits, three walks and a fielder’s choice in the span of eight batters, the Indians (10-3, 5-2) hung six runs on the Guests portion of the scoreboard to change the game.
C.P. starter Siena Gyure, who had shut the Indians down in their previous meeting, cruised through the first three innings with one hit and one walk allowed. However, two walks sandwiched around a double loaded the bases to start the fourth, and after a force play at home the hit parade began in earnest.
“They’ve seen (Gyure), and they were ready for her,” said Portage coach Lisa Hayes, who was on maternity leave during the last matchup.
“She’s a very good pitcher, and timing her up is not very easy.”
Alexis Johnson, Stephanie Upton and Jena Alaniz put Portage up 5-2, Upton singling home the go-ahead pair and Alaniz doubling for two more. Alaniz scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-2.
“It felt pretty awesome, just like a domino effect,” Upton said. “It was one person, then the next and the next. It feels great to be able to keep it going.”
Zengler quickly retired the first two hitters of the bottom of the fourth and pitched out of a slight jam with two runners on base. Zengler allowed eight hits and a walk with no strikeouts. She induced 18 ground-outs.
Johnson walked with the bases loaded in the fifth, and Upton singled for another run.
Injury-plagued Lauren Murray, a former all-DAC player who had offseason knee surgery, added a solo home run over the center field fence in the seventh.
“She’s such a great kid overall, and having her back is a big boost to the whole program,” Hayes said. “She really needed that (home run) to get back into the swing of things.”
Crown Point scored its first run on an error and its second on a Rachael Honaker single. Miranda Elish’s RBI base hit in the sixth cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to 8-3.
“Our hits were all spread out, and their hits were all one after another,” Crown Point coach Ginger Britton said. “Against a team like Portage you can’t have two bad innings and expect to come out on top.”