A tough setback
La PORTE — La Porte kept falling behind to Griffith on Friday.
First, it trailed 2-0 in the second inning. Then, it was staring at a 3-2 deficit heading to its last at-bat in the bottom of the seventh.
Each time, however, the Slicers rallied.
La Porte found a way to tie it 3-3 in the seventh and had the winning run on third base with two outs. But a swinging strikeout ended the threat. An inning later, La Porte loaded the bases with two outs in still a knotted contest, but again, a swinging strikeout ended the eighth.
The Panthers then belted five hits in the 10th and tallied five runs, including three runs after a catcher’s interference call extended the inning. It added up to the Slicers’ 8-3 loss to undefeated Griffith in a game that wasn’t indicative of the final score at Schreiber Field.
La Porte (1-4) was aiming to rebound after a walk-plagued, 7-2 home loss to Merrillville on Wednesday. Despite the outcome, the Slicers played a much cleaner contest two days later against the Class 3A No. 9 Panthers (4-0).
“We made steps in the right direction,” La Porte coach Scott Upp said. “We’re looking to improve every ball game. We saw some of that, but we also saw some situations where we had opportunities where we could have closed out the game and we just didn’t do it. Offensively, we had a few too many strikeouts, a couple big strikeouts in situations where all we had to do is put the ball in play.”
Griffith scored what proved to be the winning run on Ryan Castillo’s RBI fielder’s choice to the second basemen. Slicer second basemen Carson Crass tried to throw out Johnny Maynard at home plate, but he slid under the throw. That made it 4-3.
The Panthers then added another run on Cole Cervantes’ RBI single to right center. Cody Wilkins then hit what appeared to be a line drive to short to end the inning, but La Porte catcher Matt Parrette was called for catcher’s interference, so Wilkins was awarded first and that loaded the bases with a pair of outs. Instead of the score being 5-3 with the Slicers coming up to bat, Griffith added three more runs after the catcher’s interference to make it a five-run margin. Kyle Iwinski followed with a two-run single to right, and Bubba Davenport had an RBI base hit to right.
“We heard it,” Upp said of the catcher’s interference. “Sometimes that happens. Some guys get long in their swing and maybe that was it. Matt (Parrette) really wasn’t too close, it was just the way sometimes guys swing the bat.”
The Slicers were retired in order in their half of the 10th.
Earlier, La Porte tied the contest in the seventh with a run.
Parrette had a leadoff walk, then courtesy runner Zane Eskridge moved to second on Zach Purnell’s sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on Brock Lipscomb’s pop-up in the middle of the infield which Griffith let drop, and scored on a wild pitch. That knotted the score 3-3. The Slicers then had the bases loaded with two outs, but couldn’t tally the winning run.
In the eighth, the Slicers loaded the bases with two outs. But they couldn’t quite break through.
Connor Stalbaum started for La Porte and was solid in eight innings in the no-decision in his first career varsity start.
The junior right-hander gave up three earned runs, scattering 10 hits, with one strikeout and three walks.
“He did a nice job, he kept them off stride for the most part,” Upp said. “They did get 10 hits off him, but he did a nice job for his first start. He was changing speeds. Again, we don’t have guys who throw real hard, but if you can find the strike zone with three different pitches and keep them off stride, you can see what happens.”
The Slicers’ Jackson Mrozinski took the setback in relief. He surrendered five runs, two earned, on six hits. He fanned one and walked none in two innings.
Davenport picked up the victory in relief. He threw three scoreless innings, allowing three hits. He finished with three strikeouts and one walk.
Trailing 2-0, La Porte recorded a pair of runs in the third to tie it. Crass drew a bases-loaded walk, and Grant Collins had a sacrifice fly to shallow right. That knotted the contest 2-2. Gavin Zolvinski began the rally with a base hit.
The Panthers plated single runs in both the first and second. Cervantes had a leadoff double and later scored on a wild pitch in the opening inning. Then, in the second, Wilkins hit an RBI single to right center, making it 2-0.
In the sixth, Griffith went ahead 3-2 by manufacturing a run. Castillo singled to start the inning, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, moved to third on a groundout, and scored on a wild pitch with two outs.
On the day, La Porte’s No. 9 hitter Zach Purnell went 2-for-2 with a walk and a sacrifice bunt, while the team’s No. 8 batter Parrette finished 2-of-4 with a walk.
“Zach Purnell did an excellent job at-bat in the eighth, just fouling pitches off, not trying to do too much,” Upp added. “And eventually, he worked himself a walk. That was a nice at-bat on his part. We need to take a little lesson from Purnell there, that he wasn’t trying to do too much.”
The leadoff man Lipscomb went 3-for-5 with a double on the aforementioned pop-up that wasn’t caught in the middle of the infield.
As a team, the Slicers struck out 13 times. And their No. 2 through No. 6 hitters finished with only one combined hit, three walks and 12 total strikeouts.
“The top part of the order has to help us out a little bit better,” Upp said. “But that happens in baseball to where the bottom does better.”
Tim Lawson earned eight strikeouts in his four innings of work after relieving the Griffith starter Logan Harder in the fourth. La Porte eventually tied it in the seventh off Lawson, as they drew a pair of walks and an intentional walk in that inning.
Griffith 8, La Porte 3 (10 innings)
The Slicers’ Matt Parrette and Zach Purnell went a combined 4-for-6.