PLYMOUTH — After looking somewhat sluggish through the first three innings against South Bend Riley on Wednesday, La Porte's baseball team woke up just in time, allowing the Slicers to advance to a sectional semifinal following a 6-2 victory over Riley at the Class 4A Plymouth Sectional.
After erasing a 2-0 deficit with a pair of runs in the fourth inning, La Porte broke the game open with a four-run top of the sixth to propel the Slicers to their seventh straight win.
“It was the old White Sox cliche, 'Winning Ugly,' because that was absolutely ugly,” La Porte coach Scott Upp said. “From the word 'go' we came out in infield and we took lackadaisical infield and we started the ball game that way. In a single-elimination game, though, you survive and advance. Definitely today was survival mode.”
Upp added his team had three errors on simple plays they should make.
“We can't continue to do that,” Upp said. “Or else our time will be over.”
With the score deadlocked 2-2 against the Wildcats (7-8), the offense for the Slicers came alive by belting four hits in the sixth.
Gavin Zolvinski's leadoff walk sparked the four-run sixth for the Slicers. After Jake Spence was hit by a pitch, pinch-hitter Connor Stalbaum ripped an RBI single to left field to make it 3-2 and proved to be the game-winning hit.
“A lot of times a leadoff walk comes back to get you,” Upp said. “In that case, we took advantage of it. We had some guys who had some big hits in that inning. Connor Stalbaum, who didn't get the start today, did a nice job getting an RBI hit. He didn't exactly smash it, but he got enough of it to get it to the outfield. Those are things that have to happen in the tournament. You've got to have more than nine guys.”
Spence scored on a wild pitch, while Jack McGuire had an RBI base hit to center. Pinch-hitter Logan Schroeder closed the scoring in the inning with an RBI single to center as well to put the Slicers up four.
Slicers’ left-hander Parker Hill recorded the victory, throwing the first five innings. Hill allowed a pair of runs on five hits, striking out six and walking two. The lefty worked out of jams in first, fourth and fifth, and limited the damage in the second and third, when Riley scored single runs.
“He did a great job battling,” Upp said. “He had some innings where he was spot on, and then, he had some other innings where he lost the strike zone a little bit. But all in all, he did a very nice job.”
Dave Applegarth closed the contest with two scoreless innings for the Slicers, fanning one and walking one. He didn't give up a hit and retired the side in order in the seventh.
Riley’s Jackson Williams took the loss in relief, surrendering four runs on four hits in two innings. He finished with one strikeout and one walk.
Wildcats' right-handed starter Michael Burns kept La Porte's offense in check for the first three innings before the Slicers tied the contest at 2-2 with a pair of runs in the fourth. Spence ripped a two-run single up the middle to score Carson Crass, who got hit by a pitch leading off, and Zolvinski, who doubled to deep right center.
“I was zoned in when their pitcher was throwing,” Spence said. “I was just thinking, 'On top, line drive,' what (former) coach (Blake) Hindsley used to say. I hit the ball right up the middle.”
Bailey Harris hit an RBI single up the middle to drive in Peyton Ring, who singled leading off the second frame to make it 1-0 Riley.
The Wildcats pushed the margin to 2-0 in the third on Bryce Schwing's RBI base hit to center, scoring Burns, who got hit by a pitch. Burns moved to second after he appeared to be picked off, but first baseman Josh Trim’s throw to second was high.
No La Porte player had more than one hit, but Zolvinski doubled and walked. McGuire reached base all three times, including walking and singling, and Spence singled and got hit by a pitch and had two RBI. Carson Stalbaum also reached twice, getting hit by a pitch and singling.
During the Slicers' blowout at Plymouth earlier in the season, Zolvinski had four hits. On Wednesday, he smacked a double and had the key walk in the sixth.
“That's the way baseball works,” Upp said of Zolvinski's prowess at Bill Nixon Field. “It's kind of strange the way baseball works. Let's just hope it continues for Gavin. That'd be a good thing for us.”
The Slicers (12-17) next meet the host Pilgrims in a semifinal on Saturday at noon. La Porte routed Plymouth 15-2 on the road on April 20.
Class 4A Plymouth Sectional
La Porte 6, South Bend Riley 2
Slicers’ freshman Gavin Zolvinski had a double and a walk.