Corona hits Michigan City hard: No. 9 batter clubs grand slam, two HRs as Crown Point wallops Wolves
By CJ Peters
For JP on Preps
MICHIGAN CITY — Crown Point senior Matt Corona saw the ballpark flags howling to left and left-center field Tuesday and had the thoughts many hitters have when the wind is in their favor.
“I said it before the game to someone, if you put (the ball) in the air today, it’s gonna have a chance at going (out),” Corona said.
With a starting lineup that had five players over 6-foot-3, including three over 210 pounds, it was the 5-foot-7,130-pound shortstop that made the biggest splash in Tuesday’s Duneland Athletic Conference game.
Hitting out of the No. 9 spot, Corona turned on a first-pitch fastball in the first inning and found the jet stream for his first career varsity homer – a grand slam – highlighting a 10-run inning. It was the first of two homers for the shortstop, who was one of five Crown Point players with at least two hits in its 16-2 drubbing of Michigan City.
“He’s got a little pop to him for a little dude, he had a good day,” Strayer said. “We were talking about that in the dugout afterward how we’d been starting off a little slow in our approaches at the plate. I thought we came out and had a good approach.
“I think a few of them were kind of pulling off the ball, so we kept trying to get them to think ‘right center to left center.’ I don't want them to hit the ball to right field, but I want them to think to hit to right field. From there, they can adjust it and pull it if it’s an inside pitch.”
An inning after hitting his first homer of his varsity career, Corona socked another in a similar spot, a two-run shot. He added an RBI double down the left field line in the fourth, finishing 3-for-3 with six RBIs.
“Both were fastballs on the inner half and I was able to turn on them,” Corona said. “Like I had said, if you put one in the air, it was gonna have a chance. That’s what I said and I was able to do it twice.”
Strayer hopes this big game is something Corona builds off of in what is his first look at extended varsity time.
“He was our No. 1 base runner for us as a courtesy runner and played some outfield for us last year,” Strayer said. “We like him at shortstop and he’s done a good job for us there. The one thing he needs to be is consistent – he’ll have a really good game and then he’ll drop off.
“He needs to find some consistency and being a senior, he should be able to do that.”
Being out on the diamond isn’t something Corona is planning on taking for granted anytime soon.
“I really didn’t play much last year, really just as a pinch-runner, and it’s definitely more of a role this year,” he said. “If I’m being honest though, I’m blessed to be able to play baseball and I’m glad I’m able to play for the team. I’m just glad to be on a baseball field, really.”
Eric Santaguida (3-for-3) and Chris Bachman combined for 10 strikeouts on the hill, allowing just three hits. Johnny Johnson and Luke Burford each had a pair of hits for the Bulldogs (4-2, 1-2), who totaled 13 knocks and scored in every inning.
“I felt like we had a lot of confidence at the plate as a whole,” Corona said. “We came out ready to play. They took us to extra innings last year so we wanted to come back here and put it to them and that’s what we were able to do.
“We really wanted to keep applying the pressure to them and score more runs.”
Given the windy conditions, City coach Jeff Rochowiak turned to Nolan Eaton for his first career start, but the game plan went quickly awry.
“He’s got great control, a good fastball, slider and curveball that he hits his locations with,” Rochowiak said. “I think the wind threw him off his game and he had to overwork a little bit to accommodate for that wind. With a 25 MPH wind like that, pitches weren’t hitting locations like they do in practice all the time.
“The thought was that C.P. might be used to an upper 80s pitcher, so we’ll bring in someone who throws a little bit slower with great control most of the time and maybe sneak one out.”
Rochowiak said Eaton will be right back out there battling in a day or two.
“I put him in a difficult position and I told him those 10 runs are all on me,” Rochowiak said. “We did OK, it’s hard to still keep your ‘A’ game up the whole time in that situation. We’re better than how we played, everybody is. We had a few hits and hit the ball hard a few times, it’s just a bit of a downer when you give up 10 to a good team.
“Nathan Painter came in and did his job and while he gave up a couple hits here and there, you look at after the first inning and it was a 5-2 ball game. (Wednesday) will be a different game and I expect us to come out and play much different and much better.”
Josh Floyd (RBI single), Alex Contreras (RBI double) and Matthew Iacovetti had hits for the Wolves (3-2, 2-1).