LAPORTE | Lake Central baseball coach Jeff Sandor will usually tell it like it is.
When asked what he thought of LaPorte's Connor Podkul, he immediately replied with, "he's the best pitcher in the conference."
Podkul proved Sandor's opinion true on Monday evening after his seven-inning gem to help Times No. 6 LaPorte defeat Lake Central 4-2 in Duneland Athletic Conference action, handing the No. 1 Indians to their first loss of the season.
"I don't know what to say, honestly," a smiling Podkul stated in response to Sandor.
Podkul (7-0) allowed seven hits and three walks while striking out nine to avenge a 10-0 loss to Class 4A No. 1 L.C. in April.
"This was a huge statement win for us," said Podkul, who threw on three days rest. "This conference is long and deep with good teams."
LaPorte (12-4-1, 6-1-1) jumped out in front with two first-inning runs after Jacob Craft walked, advanced to third on Kyle Upp's single, and scored on a throwing error from Indians catcher Zach Mantel.
After advancing to third, Upp then added a run on a balk from L.C. starting pitcher Taylor Lehnert.
The Indians (14-1, 5-1) answered with two runs in the top of the fifth when Mantel singled and scored on a Cody Dykema RBI single and Chase Fieldhouse scored on a wild pitch.
Upp struck again in the fifth after tripling and scoring on a passed ball to make it 4-2.
"Connor is the No. 1 guy, so his success is very important to us," LaPorte coach Scott Upp said. "Kyle struggled early, but lately he's been working up the middle so mentally he's been doing the right things at the plate."
Podkul took care of the rest and kept the visiting Indians at bay, retiring eight of the last 10 hitters he faced.
"Podkul is the best in a conference loaded with pitching," Sandor said. "But today we let him off the hook. If we fight a little more at the plate, we could've had him out in the fifth."