The 53rd annual IHSAA Baseball Sectional Championship featured two elite teams with Crown Point facing off against Portage. The Memorial Day match-up at Crown Point High School was an exciting game that CP won 6-0.
Ryan Fender, Crown Point High School senior, threw a complete game shut-out and gave up just two hits. Tyler Nemtuda, Portage High School junior, gave up just two runs in his four innings on the bump. The breakthrough 6th inning by the Bulldogs is what caused them to come out on top.
Crown Point’s hits added on to the spectacular performance by Ryan Fender. Fender had a strikeout count in the double digits and battled ferociously the whole game.
“I was focused on the trophy coming into today. I wanted to win, and I tried to do everything possible to win. My breaking ball was moving more than ever and that helped a lot,” said Fender.
Confidence was key in Fender’s mind going into the game. The Bulldogs adding four runs in the 6th inning only fueled his drive to finish the game.
“I was confident in my ability the whole game. By having those four extra runs I just felt more in control of the game in the 7th,” he said
Steve Strayer, Crown Point coach, is proud of the way his team kept their composure.
“We’ve had quite a few close games in the sectional and the game against Chesterton only helped us play well under pressure in the championship today,” said Strayer.
Coach Strayer added a good note commenting on how Fender performed in the championship game.
“Fender is just a dynamite pitcher and he had one heck of a game today,” Fender said.
Portage battled hard against one of the best teams in the Region, and the game was up for grabs going into the championship. Portage had split with Crown Point in the regular season, and the Sectional Championship would be the deciding factor of who owns the Region this season.
Bob Dixon, Portage coach, couldn’t help but credit Crown Point’s pitcher.
“Their pitching performance was the difference in today’s game. Fender is a D1 athlete and our swings were just a little short today,” said Dixon.
The season for Portage started off a little rocky, but they came together and performed well in conference play and postseason play.
“We stayed around 500 the whole season, but we progressed and beat Crown Point a few weeks ago. However, our game just wasn’t there today,” said Dixon.
Dixon is confident in his next season’s team and hopes to get back to work soon.
“We had a lot of underclassmen out there today and multiple Juniors. Next year should be an exciting one,” he said.
Portage’s standout of the game was sophomore Danny Puplava. Puplava had both hits that Fender gave up.
“I know I can play with all of these guys, even if I am only a sophomore,” said Puplava. “Right now, seeing them hold the trophy, makes me want to win one next year,” added Puplava.
The Bulldogs will compete against a tough Lake Central Indians team in the first round of the Regional Tournament. They hope to defeat another team of Indians and have their eyes set on a Regional title next.