PORTAGE | The finish line may have eluded Brandon Roeske on a cold, rainy Thursday, but at least it was well within sight for the Chesterton senior this time.
Roeske, who has had a number of strong starts sabotaged by one big inning, adverted trouble against Times No. 6 Portage, working into the seventh of an 8-5 Duneland Athletic Conference victory.
"I always knew I could do it. It was just a matter of getting it done for once," Roeske said. "I worked hard coming back from my broken foot to get in shape. I felt I was in good condition. Physically, I'm fine. It's more mental now. I'd see one hit, not make a good pitch, and I'd go down the drain. I just kept strong and threw strikes."
Chesterton plated single runs in the first four innings and Roeske gave himself a boost, stranding Jon Velez on third with none out in the third. He allowed just four hits, one of them a Chris Klenk solo home run that broke the shutout in the sixth. Coach Jack Campbell came out with the hook after a hit and a walk to start the seventh. By then, it was 8-1.
"He was on the high 80s end (of pitches)," Campbell said of Roeske. "I pitched. I used to be there. You don't want to come out. If he hadn't walked the second guy, we would've gone longer. He had real good command all day, changing speeds, working in the slider and curve with the fastball. It was just extending it, being sharper for a longer period of time."
Aided by three errors, Portage (10-6, 3-4) scored four runs in the seventh, which made the Trojans' four-run top half all the more crucial.
"(Roeske) did a good job keeping us off balance and we did poorly making adjustments on him," Indians coach Tim Pirowski said. "This is a frustrating loss all around. It's a lack of focus; a lack of consistency. We're either absolutely beating the heck out of teams or we're getting our doors blown off. You've got to have a sense of urgency the whole game, not just for half of the seventh inning."
Tyler Sufana, Cameron O'Brien and Jeremy Jaeger all had two hits for Chesterton (7-8. 3-4). Sufana scored twice while O'Brien and Jaeger each knocked in two.
"We hit the ball well," Campbell said. "We did a lot of good things."
Each team committed four errors, possibly a by-product of the soggy conditions. Both schools have prom this weekend and didn't want to postpone the game since it would have been pushed back all the way to Tuesday.
"I don't know how many unearned runs they had," Pirowski said. "I lost track. We're better than that."