LAPORTE | With Kevin Jones and Devin Bafia dealing, it figured to come down to one play between Portage and Valparaiso in Friday's Class 4A LaPorte Sectional.
That one play was a sixth-inning Bafia wild pitch that scored Jones with what proved to be the winning run in a 2-1 Indians victory.
Merrillville dispatched Michigan City 10-0 in five innings in the second game.
"I love the competition," Jones said. "We've been ready for this game the whole week. I knew it was going to be close. I just battled to get three outs for my team."
Portage didn't get a ball out of the infield in the decisive frame. Before the wild pitch, CJ Haupt was called out at the plate on a safety squeeze.
"That's just baseball, I guess," Portage coach Tim Pirowski said. "Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good."
Jones struck out 13, including the side in the seventh after CJ Gear started it with an infield single.
"We know he's going to give us a chance to win, no matter who we play," Pirowski said. "The kids respond to that. They get a little more fired up when he's out there striking out guys. He just did a good job battling. There's no fastball count with Jones. He'll throw (his curve) on any pitch."
Valpo scored its only run in the third on a Stephen Simms single. It didn't get a runner past first after that.
"I'm really confident with (my curve)," Jones said. "It's something I've always had. Everything was working."
Jones also accounted for Portage's first run, flaring an 0-2, two-out pitch just over the infield in the third.
"Down 0-2, I was just trying to get a little piece of the ball and put it in play," Jones said.
Jones was the first batter for Bafia, who came on in the third after two singles off starter Tyler Ellrich.
"We weren't looking past Portage at all," Valpo coach Dave Coyle said. "With the schedule restructured, we just thought (starting Ellrich) would give us more options down the road. He was very effective. We knew with Devin in and Jones on the mound, runs would be at a premium. Devin's been phenomenal his entire career. That was a great baseball game everybody just watched. Unfortunately, someone has to lose."
There was no drama in the second game. Merrillville (11-17) scored four runs in the third and fourth, aided by Michigan City's shoddy play.
"We talked about being aggressive, at the plate, on the mound, in the field, and on base," Pirates coach Mark Schellinger said. "We set the tone in the first inning and went from there. Once we got up, we told them to keep going, don't give them a breath."
Brett Deline (4-5) blanked M.C. (13-15) on three hits, not allowing a runner to reach second.
"Pitching with the lead is the easiest thing in the world," Deline said. "Control's my strength. I can't rely on my velocity. I throw strikes and knowing my defense is behind me makes it easy."
Deline fanned five, including the side in the fifth, and walked none.
"Brett's unbelievable," Schellinger said. "I can't imagine what his radar gun (reading) is. Scouts would laugh at it. He keeps them off balance and throws strikes. If you can do that in high school, you're going to be in good shape."
Michigan City committed five errors and threw six wild pitches. Joey Cowser had two hits and Joey Traina had a two-run single for Merrillville.