LAPORTE | For the fourth year in a row, Portage reached the Class 4A sectional championship.
The last three years, it went away disappointed.
This time, it had Kevin Jones.
The Chesterton transfer tossed a three-hitter and the Indians (19-13) made the most of two CJ Haupt hits to upset Crown Point, 4-1, in the finals Wednesday at Schreiber Field.
"The fourth time's the charm, I guess," Pirowski said. "We've had more consistent players top to bottom, but we haven't had that ace to shut a team down. He was able to throw all his pitches for strikes on any count, like he has all year, facing one of the top teams in the state, and we were able to scratch out a win. Unbelievable."
Jones struck out nine, fanning Glenn Hecht to end it after a wild pitch cost him a shutout. Prior to the seventh, C.P. (25-6) got runners in scoring position four times, but failed to score. Jones also helped his cause with a slick stop to start a 1-6-3 double play in the fourth.
"That was luck," Jones said. "I feel like I've grown as a pitcher. I'm learning to hit my spots. I knew I was there for my team and we just needed a few runs to get the win. I knew coming in (to Portage) I could win any game. I was ready to jump into a bigger role."
Portage scored the game's first two runs in the fourth inning without benefit of a hit. Tyler Kniola struck out with one out, but it was a dropped third strike and catcher Bobby Morgan sailed the throw over first baseman Jake Jatis' head, scoring Peter Psomadelis. Kniola, who went all the way to third, scored on a Patrick Derr fly ball to center.
Haupt registered Portage's first hit, doubling off the left-field fence in the start the fifth. He came across on a Tyler Soberg fly out to center. Haupt added another hit, an RBI single, to make it 4-0 in the sixth after another dropped third strike.
"Haupt had his best game of the year," Pirowski said. "He picked a hell of a time to do it."
Plesac allowed just one hit over six innings.
"We got one hit (against Hobart), so I guess what goes around, comes around," C.P. coach Steve Strayer said. "We left a couple guys on. You've got to make plays against a good team, against a good pitcher like that. You've got to tip your hat to Portage. They made plays, a few more than we did."
In the completion of the suspended semifinal, Portage scored on fifth-inning singles by Eric Mesarch and Peter Psomadelis to break out of a tie and defeat Merrillville 5-3.
Ty Kniola, who started Tuesday night, returned to the mound and blanked the Pirates (11-18) on one hit over 3 2/3 innings.
"I texted Coach 'P' after school that I wanted to pitch and he said all right," Kniola said. "I felt good. You get the (first-inning) jitters, but after that, I was feeling it. The adrenaline was going."
Merrillville put two on with two outs in the seventh, prompting Pirowski to go to Jones, who fanned Jose Carbajal on three pitches, all fastballs.
"Coach told me before the inning to be ready to go if Ty got in trouble," Jones said. "I was prepared to come in and shut it down. I just knew I had to get the out to get the win."