PORTAGE | Offense was hard to come by, but some timely hitting by CJ Haupt was all that Kevin Jones needed to earn Times No. 4 Portage a narrow 2-1 Duneland Athletic Conference victory over Merrillville on Saturday.
"Kevin was throwing real good," Haupt said. "I just wanted to get some run support for him."
Jones fanned 11, but an unearned first-inning run had him trailing into the fifth as Merrillville's Brett Deline kept the Indians off-balance. Haupt singled and scored to knot the game on a two-out flare by No. 9 hitter Patrick Derr. In the sixth, he broke the tie with a two-out single to left.
"He looked like he was ready to go," Portage coach Tim Pirowski said of Haupt. "He wanted to be in that spot. He wasn't scared of the moment, which is never easy."
Haupt was motivated after Merrillville gave Peter Psomadelis an intentional ball four to bring him up.
"That pumped me up a little bit," Haupt said. "(Deline) was a little slower, so I moved up in the box and was focusing on going up the middle, 'oppo.'"
Pitching with the lead for the first time, Jones smelled the finish line, striking out the side in the seventh.
"I felt confident we'd come back," Jones said. "I hadn't thrown live in a while, so I didn't have my speed, but my curve ball was working pretty effectively. That's typically my wipe-out pitch."
The Pirates (3-5, 1-2) had a few chances, but stranded five runners between the third and fifth innings, four of them in scoring position.
"He hasn't been able to throw much lately, so he was a little tight early," Pirowski said. "After the fifth inning, he was a different kid."
Deline took the loss despite allowing just five hits. Aaron Dye had two hits and scored Merrillville's only run.
"Brett pitched a heck of a game, especially against a team like Portage," Pirates coach Mark Schellinger said. "Jones is tough. You're not going to get a lot of opportunities, so when you get guys on base, you've got to find a way to score some runs. We told the kids, close isn't good enough anymore. We need to break through and start beating people."
Portage (9-2, 3-0) managed just one hit until Haupt got the fifth started with a slicing line drive that barely eluded Tyler Schieve.
"Not playing a lot lately, I actually thought we were pretty tight," Pirowski said. "The longer it went on, the tighter we got. Then coach (Bob) Dixon came in and did 'Turtle Man' and that loosened them up a little bit. It wasn't great, but it was enough."