GARY | The West Side baseball team had their rotation set when they knew they had a tough week of games.
Even though the rain busted up the schedule, it wouldn't break the rotation.
So the Cougars started their ace, Paco Jordan, in center field, giving other pitchers a chance at U.S. Steel Yard against Chicago's Morgan Park.
With 10 runs in the first inning, en route to a 17-7 Morgan Park win, it didn't take long for Jordan to take over on the mound.
"We feed off of him, he's our energy man. As long as we get him, and keep him going, the rest of the team will pick up behind him," West Side coach James Kirkland said. "They feed off of Paco, they know what he can do on the mound, what he can do at the plate, and they also know what he can do in the field, so there's no doubts in their mind that he is going to be their leader."
Jordan made a center-field catch on the first batter of the game, then the Mustangs had a 2-0 lead before the next out was made. After batting around, the Cougars switched pitchers in the top of the first, but Ramone Atkins walked all three batters he faced.
When Jordan entered the game, on the 14th batter of the first inning, Morgan Park's lead was 8-0. His team immediately relaxed around him.
Jordan finished with seven runs (none earned) in 4 2/3 innings, striking out six and walking four.
"I'm not going to say they rally around me, but the seniors carry this team," Jordan said. "Everybody played great after the third inning."
Morgan Park took a 17-0 lead in the top of the third, in part on an inside-the-park grand slam by James Davidson, before West Side started to storm back.
The Mustangs gave each pitcher after the second inning a full inning to throw to the Cougars. In the fourth, it was Johnathan Hodo, who allowed seven runs on seven hits that pulled West Side within 10.
In the span, Charlie Butler hit a double and Tuquary Scott smacked a triple. Jordan, who went 2 for 2 in the inning, stole home for the Cougars' first run.
With the 10-run rule in place, the game ended in the fifth at home plate, with West Side's final chance to force a sixth inning called out under a tag.
"We have to make plays, and when we don't make plays, you can see what happens," Jordan said. "We came out after the third and started making plays. It was too late."