INDIANAPOLIS | In her first varsity game as a freshman, Kiley Jones dropped a popup.
Not this time.
The Portage sophomore pitcher punctuated a two-hit shutout in Saturday's Class 4A state championship, squeezing a soft looper to secure the Indians' 2-0 victory over Franklin Central at Ben Davis High School.
"I usually have trouble with those," Jones said. "It was nice to finish it with one I caught. I knew when we got those runs, if our defense continued to play like it did, it would be enough. I try to mix up speeds quite a bit. Obviously, I don't bat against myself, but seeing other batters, it throws their timing off. It's hard to get a good read."
Jones (16-4) allowed just two base runners, only one of which reached second base, in a 53-pitch gem. She struck out two but walked none, outdueling the Flashes' Gabby Snyder, who allowed just one hit, a fourth-inning Lauren Murray double that plated courtesy runners Abby Alexander and Krystle Allison.
"We told her before the game she needed to pitch like she did in the Crown Point game (in the sectional) and she did even better," Portage coach Lisa Hayes said. "We knew they were a good hitting team, but she kept the ball down."
"It's probably the sharpest I've seen her all season," catcher Haley Hodges added. "She was locating great."
Snyder was electric for three innings, fanning seven Indians the first time through the order. Hodges was hit by a pitch in the fourth and Jones fouled off four two-strike pitches to earn a walk, setting the table for Murray, whose drive cleared the left fielder. It would prove to be the only hit for Portage (25-6), but it was enough.
"It's the second time in a row," Hayes said. "She did it last week at semistate and she did it again, at the perfect time. She absolutely loves to be in pressure situations."
Delaney Thompson singled to start the Flashes fifth, but was left at second. An infield hit in the seventh proved harmless.
"It's a tough way to lose," Franklin Central coach Kathy Stricker said. "We didn't get the runners where we needed to. (Jones) had decent speed and a good change-up that suckered us a couple times. That's what happens when you mix a 60 (miles per hour pitch) with a 40."
The title is Portage's second in the sport. It last won in 2000.
"They just kept believing in themselves and in the team and they found a way," Hayes said.