LAPORTE | In an epic of battle of aces, it all came down to a balk.
Zach Plesac scored on a first-inning balk call against Hobart's Brandon Murray, and Plesac made the run stand up for a 1-0 Crown Point victory in the first semifinal of the Class 4A LaPorte Sectional on Tuesday.
The Portage-Merrillville game was suspended by lightning tied at 3 in the bottom of the fourth.
"The pitch before, I was planning to steal home. I didn't even tell coach (Steve Strayer). I got stuck in my tracks and didn't go,," Plesac said. "Coach always emphasizes to try to distract the pitcher, so I thought, 'Shoot, I'll try to do a little of both.'"
Plesac was initially called out, but the umpires conferred and ruled the balk.
"Zach saw how (Murray) wasn't really holding him, and he was winding up pretty slow, so he said he was going to take a chance and go," Strayer said. "I told him, 'If you can get it, get it.' I think it surprised (Murray) a little bit. With Ronnie (Plesac) up, the whole side was wide open. It ended up working out for us."
Plesac was hit by a pitch with two outs and raced to third on an errant Murray pickoff throw.
"You take out the first inning, the error or the balk call, we're probably still playing," Hobart coach Bobby Glover Jr. said. "You saw (the play). You saw how I complained. There's not a lot I can say about it and not get in trouble."
Murray fanned 11, allowing just one hit, a scratch infield single by Jake Jenks in the fourth. Plesac struck out nine, yielding three hits.
"Everything was working," Plesac said. "My fastball was painting inside and out. It was a sectional semifinal. I was going to be pumped up, no matter who was pitching."
The Brickies' best chance to score came in the sixth, when they put runners on the corners, but Plesac struck out Nick Bokun on a curve and got Drey Devereaux to pop out.
"We had a couple chances, and he clamped down every time," Glover said. "I wouldn't have bet on 1-0, but I expected it to be close. They traded pitch for pitch pretty much."
Hobart also stranded in the third after getting two on with one out
"The No. 1 thing our seniors know was they were trying to end our season, and they were going to do anything they can to stop them," Strayer said.
In the second game, Portage jumped in front 2-0 in the first as Eric Mesarch tripled in a run and scored on a passed ball before Merrillville answered with three in its half.
Jose Carbajal singled in Aaron Dye after his hustle double and Jon Feliciano followed with a two-out, two-run single.
Mesarch singled to start the Portage third and scored on an Alec Coates fly to right to tie the game.
Umpires pulled the teams after lightning was sighted and then called it a night rather than wait out the delay.