CEDAR LAKE | The Portage and Hanover Central baseball teams couldn't have been happier to take the field and finally play ball.
They could have done without the 38 degrees at first pitch or wind chill that made the temperature feel colder.
"It's exciting knowing our first game was finally today," said Wildcats pitcher Daniel Balich, who earned the win. "You just have to keep walking around and keep blowing on your fingers, keeping your hands warm."
Behind a five-run fourth inning, Hanover opened the season with a victory, beating Portage 9-2.
The Indians shook out their first-game jitters, or shook off the cold, with three errors, including one that led to a run.
"Obviously today we told our guys we're not going to panic," Portage coach Tim Pirowski said. "The good thing is we're outside and seeing guys throwing off the mound. We're seeing someone other than our own guys, we'll learn from this and we'll be playing our best baseball when we enter the (Duneland Athletic Conference)."
The Wildcats found wild ways to score. Michael Craig scored on a suicide squeeze in the third inning to tie the game at 2-2, and Evan Garthus led too much off third base on a called squeeze play but ended up stealing home in the fifth.
"As cold as it is today, the ball's not going anyway; you have to find a way to score," Hanover Central coach Doug Nelson said. "We're just excited to play and get going."
Jesse Wilkening led the Wildcats offense, going 2 for 4 with three RBIs and a run scored.
The game was is the only nonconference game the Wildcats will play before they open their first Greater South Shore Conference season next week.
Portage, which scored twice in the second off a Jared Ford single, will play in the Penn Tournament this weekend before opening DAC play.
Jacob Bearss struck out three for the Indians in 2 2/3 innings of relief, though Pirowski said he his team hopes to cut down on the number of leadoff batters put on base.
Hanover Central had a leadoff runner in five of six innings. Starter Jacob Dickson (0-1) pitched his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the first with a strikeout and a double play.