CROWN POINT | Alex Del Rio is a study in patience.
When the senior was not tall enough to see over a dugout railing, he was hanging around the most successful Munster baseball team of this century, the 2002 state championship team, led by older brother Adam Del Rio.
Alex Del Rio can wait patiently for anything, including his pitch. It took four at-bats for him to see a fastball near the strike zone, and when he did, he got all of it – and it was a game-changer.
Del Rio’s three-run home run to right center gave surging Times No. 3 Munster its first lead of the game and continued a string of nine unanswered runs in a 12-7 win over host No. 9 Crown Point Thursday night.
“I told myself, ‘I’m going to crush this pitch,’” Del Rio said.
The Bulldogs (2-3) led 6-3 through four innings before a five-run fifth put Munster (5-1) in familiar territory – ahead.
A wild pitch after Joe Bryant’s RBI single had cut Crown Point’s lead to 6-5 and chased Bulldogs starter Jake Kocher from the game. Del Rio’s second homer of the season completed the rally.
“We’ve just fought every game,” Del Rio said. “We don’t expect to lose. We feel like this is the year to put everything together. We know we are going to do what it takes to win.”
For insurance, Munster added four runs in the seventh, including a two-run double by Tom DeCero. Eight of the nine Munster starters had at least one run or an RBI in the 14-hit attack.
Crown Point led 3-0 when Munster’s John Pitsas and David Hladek drove in a combined three runs on back-to-back hits to tie the game in the third.
“This group here, they haven’t been in a game where they were down like that in quite a while,” Munster coach Bob Shinkan said. “I always say, you’ve got to play 21 outs. We were down with nine outs to go, and I’m proud of the kids because they stayed with it.”
Jack Vinovich doubled twice, including a hit that broke his metal bat, and drove in another run with a sacrifice fly as Crown Point scored six times in the first four innings.
Munster sophomore Connor Manous, making only his third varsity appearance ever, relieved Jon Azar and surrendered two runs before holding C.P. in check for the remainder of the game, save for one seventh-inning run.
“We’re better than we thought we would be, but we’re disappointed that we have not been able to hold onto some leads,” Crown Point coach Steve Strayer said. “We’re looking for consistent pitching. One night one guy throws well and another doesn’t, the next time it’s the other way around. Until we find that consistency we won’t know who to throw out there.”