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Samuelson’s stellar outing puts Slicers in sectional final

May 29, 2017 GMT

PLYMOUTH — When Mishawaka put the heat on, Andy Samuelson was at his best.

La Porte’s ace pitcher worked out of a serious jam in the sixth inning, with his team clinging to a 1-0 advantage. The Cavemen had runners on second and third base with no outs. But Samuelson earned two huge strikeouts and a forceout to preserve the lead.

In total, Samuelson racked up 14 strikeouts and went the distance in a complete-game shutout, carrying the Slicers to a 3-0 win over Mishawaka in a Class 4A Plymouth Sectional semifinal.

“I was just battling, working through jams,” Samuelson said. “There were a lot of tough spots. I just put my head down and did my best to get out of them. And fortunately, I was able to.”

La Porte (21-8) next plays the Plymouth/South Bend Riley winner in the Class 4A Plymouth Sectional final on Monday at 6 p.m. CDT.

The Slicers also pounced on sloppy Mishawaka defense. The Cavemen (18-11) committed four errors on the day, and all three La Porte runs were unearned.

Samuelson recorded the victory, giving up no runs, scattering five hits and walking three in seven innings.

“He was pounding the zone,” Slicer coach Scott Upp said. “I know it was a little frustrating at times, because he felt he maybe had a few pitches here and there that weren’t called for strikes. But the umpire calls them consistent both ways. So we’ve just got to battle through those things. That was probably one of his better games, if not the best game.”

La Porte was without one of its most talented hitters and pitchers, Jon Williams, who hurt his knee running the bases in the sectional opener on Thursday.

In his stead, Grant Collins, a mere freshman, started at designated hitter.

He had a critical RBI single to right field in the sixth, pushing the Slicers’ cushion to 2-0.

“When Jon (Williams) went down, we put him into pinch run, and we thought, ‘What the heck. He hit over .500 at the JV level, so give him a shot,’” Upp said. “He’s a tough target to throw to, and when you do throw a strike, he’s pretty aggressive. That’s a big hit for him, for his first varsity hit. A big hit, an RBI in a sectional semifinal. That’s pretty neat to see.”

A few batters later, Jose Ochoa, La Porte’s No. 9 hitter, had an RBI base hit to left, making it 3-0.

The rally started when Nolan Lorenz reached on a fielding error by the shortstop.

Right off the bat in the bottom of the first, the Slicers plated an unearned run.

With two outs, Samuelson hit a flyball to center field, which Mishawaka’s center fielder dropped, allowing Samuelson to reach second. Will Malekovic followed with an RBI single to left, putting La Porte ahead 1-0.

“It’s huge,” Samuelson said of capitalizing on miscues. “Good teams pounce on other teams’ mistakes. I’ve said it before, ‘That’s how you win ball games, when you pounce on other teams’ mistakes and don’t let them get up from it.’”

The Cavemen had a golden chance to tie or possibly take the lead in the sixth.

Joe Howe singled to begin the inning and stole second. Nick Bodle then had a bunt hit, and also stole second, putting runners on second and third with no outs. Samuelson followed with the aforementioned two key strikeouts sandwiched around a walk. And a chopper to third baseman Thomas Pope, who stepped on third for a force, ended the inning.

Editor’s Note: This story will be updated shortly.