MERRILLVILLE | Under a glowing sun and prevailing wind, John Olejniczak gave his Valparaiso baseball teammates plenty to praise Monday.
"'Ole, that's like a beach ball out there,'" they told the Vikings senior pitcher and outfielder. "'Ole, it's like a video game.'"
Thanks in large part to Olejniczak's six RBIs, Valparaiso won its first sectional title in 10 years Monday with a six-inning 18-8 win against Portage. Olejniczak had a first-inning two-run homer as part of his 4-for-5 day at the plate.
"We're facing some great programs and it's not always easy to turn it on and turn it off," Valparaiso coach Dave Coyle said, "and he answered the call as a senior captain today and did some fantastic things for us that allowed us to get off to a good start."
Olejniczak took the ball as the Vikings starter, but a five-run second inning by Portage ended the senior's outing. He was undeterred, with a two-RBI single in the fourth inning that gave Valpo the go-ahead runs.
"Coming out and keeping the bats hot was huge for us," Olejniczak said. "I think those two runs in the first inning was huge to set the pace of the game."
Portage made four errors, leading to five unearned runs. Valparaiso scored two-or-more runs in four innings including a seven-run fifth and five-run sixth. The Vikings also picked up a homer from Joe Gallinatti in the sixth as the eventual game-ending runs.
"We picked a bad time to play a very bad game," Portage coach Tim Pirowski said. "Give them credit, they made us pay for the errors. They pitched well."
After falling behind 3-1 in the top of the second, Portage's Andrew Brown hit his second grand slam of the sectional to give the Indians a 5-3 lead.
Portage watched another team hoist the trophy for the third consecutive season. The Indians (25-7) lost to LaPorte in the title game in 2010 and to Crown Point for the championship last season.
"This doesn't take away from the season," Pirowski said. "No one expected us to be here. We lost five starters from last season, including our top two pitchers. So to be here again, yeah we had a good season and stuff, I thought we overcame a lot of losses ... so to get here was an accomplishment."