VALPARAISO | From the tone of coach Tim Pirowski's voice, it was hard to tell whether Times No. 4 Portage had just beaten Valparaiso 13-3 in Wednesday's Duneland Athletic Conference opener or had actually lost.
"The game's 21 outs for a reason; you've got to play seven good innings, not four," Pirowski said. "That's why baseball's a great game. You can't run out the clock. I told coach (Bob) Devine in the seventh inning that it feels like we're losing. We got a big lead and we kind of got content, thinking the game was over. We lost our focus and got a little sloppy. It left a bad taste in my mouth and I hope it did with them, too. We're better than that."
Portage (6-1) jumped on Tyler Ellrich for four runs in the first inning, triggered by Chris Klenk's lead-off home run. It was cruising along 10-0 in the fifth, in position for an early finish with Jones dealing on the mound. Inexplicably, he walked four of five batters, letting in a run and extending the game.
"It can happen to anybody," Jones said. "I felt I could have thrown a lot better. I have to be more consistent with the soft-touch pitches. We relaxed. We went into cruise mode. The whole team took its foot off the gas pedal when we should have buried them. We have to keep the pressure on, not let them feel like they're still in it."
Jones (3-0) allowed two hits and fanned 11 in six innings. He also knocked in two runs and scored two. Pete Psomadelis and Hunter Thorn each registered three hits. Psomadelis also had three RBIs and three runs scored.
"We're hot right now," Jones said. "We're seeing the ball really well. When you start off well hitting, you don't stop."
The down side for Pirowski was 11 strikeouts, seven by Valpo sophomore Max Roberts.
"Obviously, we're hitting the ball well, but we still gave up too many at-bats," Pirowski said.
But it didn't compare to Valpo's afternoon. The Vikings (2-2) committed seven errors to fan the flames for Portage's 12-hit attack.
"Nothing went right," Valpo coach Dave Coyle said. "It was a struggle from the very beginning all the way around. We're very young, it's cold, but that's no excuse for some of the mistakes we made. It's frustrating and I'm sure they're as frustrated as I am. We need to find some answers pretty quick. The good news is this wasn't the sectional final."