La PORTE — It took a little while for La Porte's offense to get in gear on Saturday.
Once it did, it never looked back.
After somewhat of a lethargic start, the Slicers found themselves in a 2-1 hole after four innings against lowly Hammond Clark. From there, they took charge, exploding for 10 runs in the fifth inning to build a comfortable cushion. That permitted La Porte to thump the visiting Pioneers 11-2 in the regular-season finale on a hot day.
It’s La Porte’s sixth consecutive victory heading into the postseason after it began the year 5-17.
“We got off to a little slow start,” said the Slicers’ Carson Crass, who went 4-for-4. “But once things started clicking, we started going. Once one person got a hit, that allowed more people to be able to get hits. We got rolling. That was the difference, those runs in the fifth.”
La Porte (11-17) took command in the fruitful fifth. It belted out seven hits, sent 14 batters to the plate, and capitalized on poor defense by the Pioneers (5-13). That turned a one-run deficit into an 11-2 lead.
“It's been a while since we've had an inning like that, a big inning like that,” Slicers coach Scott Upp said. “So that's always good to see. We scored eight runs in an inning earlier in the year, so we're capable of it, it's just whether or not we have the mental aggressiveness, the intent, the focus we need to get that done.”
Brock Lipscomb led off the fifth by smakcing an inside-the-park home run over the center fielder’s head to ignite La Porte's offense.
“To me, that's one of the most exciting plays in baseball,” Upp said. “That's probably the farthest ball we've had hit this year, believe it or not. Even in batting practice, we don't have a lot of home runs. And of course, he's got the speed to get around all four bags like that. That's his first career home run, so it's kind of fitting for a player with his excitability to make it an inside-the-park home run.”
Crass then singled, stole second base, and also stole third and scored on catcher Turon Cummings’ throwing error. Later, Josh Trim ripped a two-run double to left center, making it 5-2. Carson Stalbaum followed with an RBI base hit to left. La Porte then scored a pair of runs on wild pitches, sandwiched around a run scoring on Cummings’ errant throw back to the pitcher. Dave Applegarth added a two-run single to left, putting the Slicers ahead by nine runs.
Lipscomb and Crass each had two hits in the fifth.
Trim's double, meanwhile, allowed the team to distance itself by more than one run.
"Josh has been struggling kind of all year," Upp added. "But the last couple ball games he's starting to put it together, which would be a good time for us. Because we're searching for a consistent first baseman and a consistent DH."
Crass had a perfect day offensively with four singles, including a pair of base hits in the pivotal fifth.
“The past few days we saw a little bit harder throwers, and today they threw a little bit of a slower guy,” Crass said. “And I just got my timing down. Once I got my first two hits, I had a lot of confidence.”
Crass added he's never had a four-hit game on the varsity.
After entering the game to start the fifth, Camrin Worthington picked up the victory for La Porte, who used a different pitcher every inning to prepare for the sectional. The freshman left-hander threw a scoreless inning, giving up no hits. He finished with one strikeout and one walk.
“That was his first varsity outing, he was a little bit nervous,” Upp said. “He was burying a lot of stuff early. But as he got a little bit more comfortable, a couple hitters into it, he did alright.”
Applegarth started and pitched the first. Mason Schroeder, Parker Hill, Jackson Mrozinski, Jack McGuire and Lipscomb also threw.
The visitors took a 1-0 advantage in the first, as the center fielder Hill misjudged a fly ball, allowing Amado Alonso to double. He later touched home on a wild pitch.
In the third, La Porte tied it 1-1, as Crass singled and later scored on third baseman’s Dominic Velligan’s fielding error.
Clark then went ahead 2-1 after Matt Johnson reached on catcher's interference, and came around to score on Noel Chapa's double.
Lipscomb finished 2-for-4 with a homer and an RBI, and Trim went 2-of-4 with a double and a pair of RBI. Freshman Gavin Zolvinski reached base three times, singling, walking and getting hit by a pitch.
La Porte next meets South Bend Riley in a Class 4A Plymouth Sectional opener on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
La Porte 11, Hammond Clark 2
The Slicers’ Carson Crass finished a perfect 4-for-4.