PORTAGE | The six days since Kevin Jones' disastrous outing against Crown Point seemed like an eternity to the Portage senior.
"I was real anxious," Jones said. "You just want to get back at it, to try to redeem yourself, to prove yourself again."
Jones was his old self Tuesday and LaPorte was on the receiving end. The Northern Illinois recruit allowed only one hit and one walk while striking out 13 in Times No. 5 Portage's 10-0, six-inning Duneland Athletic Conference victory.
"The key is the first pitch," Jones said. "That determines a lot. If you throw a first-pitch strike, you feel you're in the game, ready to go. I was keeping the ball down. The last couple starts, I was up."
Slicer Evan Miller matched Jones for 2 1/3 innings before a walk to Jon Velez touched off a three-run Portage third. After suggesting a suicide squeeze to coach Tim Pirowski, Jones dropped a bunt to score Velez.
"The way it felt, I thought it was going to be a 1-0, 2-0 game," Pirowski said. "Miller's legit. We slowed down, stepped out of the box, just to try to break his rhythm."
Chris Klenk's infield hit and a Pete Psomadelis double to left field, both coming with two outs, made it 3-0.
"We created it," LaPorte coach Scott Upp said. "A walk, passed ball, error and (Portage) took it from there."
It all came undone for No. 8 LaPorte amidst a downpour during a five-run Portage fourth, capped by Hunter Thorn's double to deep center that scored a pair.
"It's as poor as we've played in a while," Upp said. "I hate to say it with this group, but we played scared. I think we had two good at-bats. You can't take fastballs right down the middle. That's just intestinal fortitude. We didn't have the right approach and (Jones) probably smelled it. He's a good pitcher and he stuck it right to us."
Jones retired 14 straight before a Drew Jones single in the fifth for LaPorte (11-5, 3-3).
"He just felt better," Pirowski said. "That's the main thing. He's a ground ball-strikeout pitcher. When he's going well like that, he's not giving up a lot of fly balls. He was spotting the ball much better, throwing a lot of low strikes."
Klenk tripled and scored on a wild pitch in the sixth to end it as Portage (10-5, 3-3) maximized its six hits. Velez scored three runs out of the eight hole.
"The bottom of the order did a great job just getting on base, putting a little pressure on them, and we got a couple key hits," Pirowski said.