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A bevy of walks

April 4, 2019

La PORTE — La Porte actually out-hit visiting Merrillville 7-6 and led 2-0.

It was the walks that made all the difference on Wednesday though.

The Slicers scuffled mightily with throwing strikes and issued 10 walks, one that was intentional. Not surprisingly, six of the seven Pirates’ runs that scored reached base via walks.

It resulted in La Porte’s 7-2 loss to the Pirates, who swept both Duneland Athletic Conference games against the Slicers this week.

“Honestly, we’re just not very good right now, we’re just not,” La Porte coach Scott Upp said. “The shame of it is we work with pitchers in the bullpen in practice and we work on the mechanics of hitting and we work on ground balls. We do all the things that need to be done in practice. Come game time it equates to something totally different.

“It’s just not Slicer baseball.”

La Porte (1-3, 0-2 DAC) started fast, plating a pair of runs in the first three innings.

Its pitching was also solid at the start and didn’t allow a run.

But the Slicers squandered the 2-0 advantage after the third as Merrillville (2-2, 2-0 DAC) pounced on walks and got some crucial hits.

“A lot of the walks weren’t four-pitch at-bats,” Merrillville coach Paul Wirtz said. “They were at-bats where we fouled pitches off and we worked some at-bats. That’s what we’ve got to do. We had a couple big hits, timely hits.”

In the fourth, Merrillville tied the game with two runs. Both runs reached base on walks.

Brandon Lucero drew a leadoff base on balls and Jacob McDonald followed with a walk. Juan Maldonado then laid down a sacrifice bunt, which the third basemen fielded and threw to first base, but second basemen Carson Crass didn’t catch the throw at first, permitting Lucero to score from second. Armon Peloza then drove in McDonald with a sacrifice fly to center field.

An inning later, the visitors took the lead for good, 3-2.

The leadoff batter, Antoine King, had a walk and later scored on McDonald’s RBI single to left center.

The Pirates then broke the contest open with a three-run sixth without the benefit of a hit.

They took advantage of five walks and a hit batter in the inning. Sven Strom and Lucero each drew bases-loaded walks, while McDonald closed the scoring in the frame with a bases-loaded hit by pitch. That made it 6-2 Merrillville heading to the bottom of the sixth and put La Porte in a major hole.

“It’s just a little bit different this year than what it has been in the past,” Upp said. “Some of that stuff has to come from inside. It’s not always about mechanics. Sometimes it’s about being a bulldog on the mound and getting after it. Right now, we’re just struggling finding a bulldog out here, who the guys are who are really going to get after it on the mound. And we only scored two runs.”

On the other side, the Pirates’ Strom was reliable on the mound.

The senior right-hander went the distance in picking up the complete-game win. Strom (1-0) surrendered a mere two walks, both coming in the sixth, and struck out five. He allowed two runs, scattering seven hits in seven innings.

“He did a great job,” Wirtz said. “He kept his pitch count down, threw a lot of strikes. He gave us a chance. Early in the game, we’re down two and even when it’s a 2-2 game, he’s constantly throwing strikes.”

Brock Lipscomb (1-1) took the loss for La Porte. He gave up three runs, one earned, on three hits in five innings. He recorded eight strikeouts and five walks, one of which was intentional. He was one of four pitchers the team used. Dave Applegarth, Nick Moser and Conner Stalbaum were the others.

The Slicers pushed a run across with two outs in the first to go up 1-0.

Jake Spence laced an RBI triple down the right-field line, scoring Lipscomb from first, who reached on an infield hit up the middle. That was after La Porte made two quick outs to begin the inning.

The Slicers added another run in the third to build a 2-0 margin.

They strung three hits together, including Spence’s RBI single to left center. Zane Eskridge and Carson Crass singled as well in the inning.

Spence paced La Porte’s offense, going 2-for-3 with both of its RBIs.

“He smoked that ball in his first at-bat,” Upp said. “He jumped right on the first-pitch fastball. He’s been working on some things, working on trying to drive his body back through the baseball. He struggled a little bit last year as a junior and he doesn’t want that to happen again. Jake’s almost like a totally different person. He has a great mentality right now.”

The Slicers’ Logan Schroeder and Josh Trim also reached base twice with Schroeder singling.

Crass saw his first action of the season after missing the first three games with an unspecified injury.

Merrillville 7, La Porte 2

Jake Spence finished 2-for-3 with both of the Slicers’ RBIs.