CROWN POINT | In the seventh inning, Crown Point's Johnny Lync hit a fly ball to center field that was almost too shallow to be a sac fly.
When it was caught by Portage center fielder CJ Haupt, Bulldogs pinch runner Jack Vinovich was already off of first base. He was so far off, that he was almost to second and in jeopardy of being thrown out at first.
While Vinovich dove around the tag at first, almost no one was paying attention to Chris Dietrich running in from third base to home.
Dietrich's run, scored officially on a fielder's choice, marked the winner as Crown Point's 4-3 victory over Portage kept the Bulldogs unbeaten in the Duneland Athletic Conference.
"I feel like we're hitting the ball pretty well, and some of us are struggling," said starting pitcher Ronnie Plesac, whose double to open the seventh inning put Dietrich on second base. "I for one am struggling and I think we all need to work on our sticks, but we're a pretty good team when we come together."
The Bulldogs' small ball — walk in a run, score on a sac fly, execute a double-steal for a third run — took care of any big hits needed in the 60-degree weather. It also took early advantage of Portage pitcher Kevin Jones, who gave up all five of his walks in the first two innings as Crown Point took a 3-0 lead.
"All of the (small ball) comes from the pitching we've seen," Crown Point coach Steve Strayer said. "Usually if we're seeing a decent pitcher we're OK, but when you see a really good pitcher you've got to be able to do those things if you're going to compete and I thought we did a good job with that today."
Jones, who went six-plus, also struck out nine and gave up six hits.
"Kevin had a rough start with a couple of hit batters and a couple of walks early in the game, but he battled and he finished up nicely," Portage coach Tim Pirowski said. "He really almost shut down one of the best teams in the state. It was a good pitchers' battle between two very good pitchers."
Portage rallied in the middle innings, scoring a run in the fourth and another two in the fifth to tie the game at 3-3. The Indians defense held off a two-on in scoring position in the sixth inning to maintain the tie.
Portage also left 10 runners on base.
Jacob Bearss was 2-for-3 with a stolen base to lead the Indians (10-4, 3-2) offensively.
Times No. 6 Portage, ranked fifth in the IHSBCA Class 4A state poll, was hoping to use the game against Times No. 2 Crown Point (No. 10 in the state) to bounce back from a loss to Valparaiso on Wednesday.
"It's not going to get any easier, no matter who we're playing," Pirowski said. "We just faced two of the better pitchers in the state, and I think this shows that we can play with anybody."
Ronnie Plesac struck out eight in five innings while Zach Plesac took the win in two innings of relief for the Bulldogs (7-1, 5-0).
"That's the most that Ronnie's been hit this year and that's a good hitting team and a talented team," Strayer said. "You've got to tip your hat to (Portage). Zach came in and I was mostly impressed with his defense."