PORTER TOWNSHIP — Strong pitching and solid defense carried Boone Grove to a 13-0-1 record entering the week.
A lack of both resulted in the Times No. 6 Wolves' first loss Monday, a 6-0 defeat to No. 7 LaPorte, which took advantage of six walks and five errors in a game abbreviated to five innings by darkness.
"It's disappointing because the things we've been doing all year let us down," Wolves coach Rollie Thill said. "Jeff (Birchfield) didn't make his pitches like he should, he wasn't hitting his spots, and we didn't make plays. We do that and it's a close ballgame."
LaPorte (13-4), in turn, was spot on from the pitcher's mound and in the field. Jake Watterson allowed the same number of hits as Birchfield (four), but walked none and had error-less defense behind him.
"I was throwing strikes and I had my defense to back me up," Watterson said. "When you have a defense like that, it makes my job easy. It makes me a lot more confident out there."
Watterson struck out five, needing only about 60 pitches to nearly 100 for Birchfield.
"He was working ahead of hitters, that's the name of the game," LaPorte coach Scott Upp said. "You do that, the defense plays a little better. They're in the ballgame all the time. Strike one, they're ready to go. He well and we played well defensively. We still need to clean up our hitting a little better. We're not hitting on all eight cylinders."
You have free articles remaining.
The Slicers sent Watterson to the bump with a 3-0 lead after a two-out rally in the first. Jon Williams singled just out of the reach of a diving Taylor Piazza in center field to score Brogan Briggs after his double. Travis Upp walked and came home on a wild pitch and Andy Samuelson's bat-handle spinner to shortstop brought in Williams.
In the second, Jordan Fadke stole second and made it all the way around when the throw down and another one back to third got away. Upp, who walked three times, scored on a Samuelson ground out in the fifth before Will Malekovic and Tanner Hill executed a double steal for another run.
"The last half, we didn't hit it as well," Upp said. "Baseball's a roller coaster. You have to be able to handle the ups and downs. They don't get a hit in three, four games, they think the world's over. It's a process. They just have to stay with it."
Boone's errors contributed to four unearned runs.
"I don't know how well we fought through the cold and damp," Thill said. "It's a matter of how well we pick ourselves up. You have to know how to lose before you can become a winner. We'll see how they respond."
Watterson said the Slicers were aware of the zero in Boone's loss column.
"It didn't faze us," he said. "They wanted to beat us just as bad as the next team. Everybody wants to beat LaPorte, with our history. We treat all games like they're the same."