CHESTERTON | Portage senior Ty Kniola didn’t need much more than sunshine and a cool breeze to relax before his team’s first Duneland Athletic Conference baseball game.
With no qualms or immediate concerns, Kniola had one of the best days of his career and blanked host Chesterton 4-0 on 72 pitches in the DAC opener for both teams Tuesday afternoon.
“I was just in a groove from the first inning on,” Kniola said. “I was really feeling it today.”
Kniola pitched to contact and recorded just four strikeouts, but he allowed no walks and just four hits.
“He was in control all game with his three pitches,” Portage coach Tim Pirowski said. “The defense played well behind him all game, which helps, but (Kniola) worked all day to get ahead of hitters.”
The Indians (7-2, 1-0) took advantage of two errors to score three runs in the second inning, and Kniola just had to run through an injury-depleted Trojans lineup.
Kniola was the No. 3 starter and intermittent reliever last spring, but he developed a change-up this offseason by simple repetition, gaining comfort and confidence each time he threw it. The pitch led to several of his strikeouts, but mostly put hitters behind and made them eager to swing and eventually ground out.
“He wanted to take on the role of ace this year,” Pirowski said. “He wanted to be the guy to come in, pitch well and give us a chance to win.”
Chesterton (4-3, 0-1) had just 13 of its 18 varsity players available due to various ailments.
Chesterton starter Aery Pratt allowed six hits and two earned runs with four strikeouts and a walk.
Portage’s Peter Psomadelis scored on a wild pitch, and a throwing error on the same play allowed a charging CJ Haupt to score. Anthony Samano then scored on an infield error.
Former Chesterton player Kevin Jones singled leading off the third inning and scored Portage’s fourth run on Tyler Soberg’s sacrifice fly.
“I tell our guys to be aggressive on the bases,” Pirowski said. “I’d rather them be aggressive than miss out on an extra base.”
The Indians excelled defensively, with Eric Mesarch robbing a hit down the first base line and Sam Schest making a backhanded stop and on-time throw on a ground ball deep through the middle.
Only one of Chesterton’s four base-runners reached second base safely.
“When you don’t score, you’re not going to beat anybody,” Chesterton coach Jack Campbell said. “We knew from a defensive standpoint it was a matter of making plays, and we didn’t do that.”