Baseball: Gabe Acevedo’s homer lifts Portage past Crown PointPortage's Gabe Acevedo, right, is congratulated by teammate CJ Haupt after scoring a run in the first inning against Crown Point, on Thursday, May 3, 2012, in Crown Point. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media
CROWN POINT — Portage slugger Gabe Acevedo insisted he wasn’t thinking about hitting a home run or avenging last month’s humbling loss to Crown Point when he stepped up to the plate in a tied game in the top of the seventh on Thursday evening.
He wound up doing both anyway.
Acevedo drilled one over the right-center wall — cutting through the 20-mph wind blowing straight out to left — to lead off the seventh and propel Portage to a 6-5 victory over Crown Point.
“I just wanted to get on base,” Acevedo said. “I don’t think anyone thinks (home run) there.”
Portage coach Tim Pirowski was trying to get Acevedo up in the sixth after Chris Bruno walked and was sacrificed to second. But Bruno was thrown out trying to take third base on a potential passed ball, and Justin Newcomb struck out with Acevedo in the on-deck circle.
“I was upset we couldn’t get him up to the plate in the sixth inning,” Pirowski said.
But the Western Illinois-bound Acevedo came through anyway.
“There’s nobody in the area — in the state — I’d rather have up,” Pirowski said. “He’s as clutch as they come.”
The home run came off Crown Point freshman Noah Burkholder, who pitched five gritty innings in relief of an ineffective David Kepshire. Burkholder entered the game with the bases loaded and nobody out in the third inning — and with the Bulldogs already down 3-1.
But Burkholder allowed just one run, inducing a double-play ball and a pop-out to squirm out of the jam. He stranded four more runners over the next four innings, but he also struggled with his control. In all, the two CP pitchers walked eight Indians. The Bulldogs also committed four errors, allowing Portage to score its six runs on just six hits.
It was Crown Point’s second loss in as many days, as the Bulldogs are dealing with a spate of injuries, including two starters and two key reserves. But coach Steve Strayer wasn’t using that as an excuse.
“I thought we got better today, but I think we should have won the ballgame,” Strayer said. “As much as we’re losing guys, I think the guys we have coming in have the ability to get it done.”
Portage’s Zach Simmons was 3-for-4 with a two-out, two-run single in the first. Jake Lindeman belted a two-run homer in a three-run third inning for Crown Point that tied the game at 4-4.
It was the third time in the past four regular-season meetings that Portage has beaten Crown Point — the Bulldogs won the sectional championship against the Indians last year. So beating Crown Point isn’t the program-defining achievement it might have once been for the resurgent Indians. But it still was sweet revenge for a 10-1 blowout loss the then-unbeaten Indians suffered at home earlier in the season.
“They smacked us,” Acevedo said. “So this was nice.”