Valparaiso scored five times in the top of the second, but Milwaukee answered with seven in the bottom of the inning as the Panthers posted a 10-7 victory over the Crusaders on Friday morning in an elimination game of the Horizon League Championships in Lorain, Ohio.
The loss ends Valpo’s season
at 28-24, the Crusaders’ first winning season since 1999.
“We’re excited about our
record,” head coach Tracy Woodson
said. “We got better this year and it
gives us something to look forward to next year.”
Milwaukee struck first in the opening inning. After the first two hitters were retired, a
walk and three straight singles, including RBI hits by Tim Patzman and Shawn
Wozniak, gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
The top of the second was
Valpo’s first offensive explosion of the tournament. With one out, three straight singles loaded
the bases with Crusaders. After a
fielder’s choice at the plate made it two outs, Dan DeBruin (Combined Locks,
H.S.) looped a single into left-center to score two runs and tie the game. Steven
Scoby (Delton, Mich./Kellogg H.S.) followed, ripping a
two-run single into right-center and advanced to second on a throwing
error. Matt Lenski (Milwaukee, Wis./Marquette
University H.S.) added a single up the middle to score Scoby and make it 5-2
Brown and Gold.
The Panthers answered with
seven runs in the bottom of second, sending 11 batters to the plate. Two Crusader errors led to four unearned runs
in the inning. Josh Groves had a two-run
single to tie the game and an error on a double play ball with one out put Milwaukee on top. Lenski threw two runners out trying to steal
in the inning though, to keep the Valpo deficit at 9-5 after two.
“We scored to take the lead
and we gave it right back,” Woodson said.
“It came down to who would make the most mistakes it seemed.”
The Crusaders got two
unearned runs back of their own in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Scoby singled to right and
Lenski followed with a doubled that just dropped fair down the leftfield
line. Back-to-back errors on Panther
middle infielders allowed both runners to score and bring Valpo back to within
9-7. The Crusaders threatened again in
the fifth, putting runners on the corners with two outs, but a bouncer back to
the mound ended the inning without any runs being scored.
As was the case in their
tournament opener, Valpo struggled driving in runs with guys in scoring
position. The Crusaders put runners on
the corners again in the seventh, only to be turned away, and through seven
Valpo had stranded 10 runners, including four in scoring position.
Alex Berry (Olney, Ill./East
Richland H.S.) kept the Panthers at bay after coming in in relief in the second
inning. He pitched 4.2 innings of
scoreless ball until a double by Patzman and a single by Wozniak added a run
in the seventh, making it 10-7.
Brad Lusti went the distance
for the victory (5-4) for Milwaukee
(27-26), allowing just four earned runs and 14 hits. John
Snelten (Ingleside, Ill./Antioch H.S.) suffered the loss,
allowing six runs, five of which were earned, in just over an inning. Berry
came on and allowed just one run in 6.1 innings of relief while fanning five.
Valpo outhit the Panthers
14-12 for the game, with DeBruin and Andrew
Quinnette (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) each going 3-for-5.
Tournament Notes: Lenski’s double in the fourth was Valpo’s first extra base hit of the
tournament … Valpo left 32 runners on base in three games, including 11 against
the Panthers … Lenski finished the season hitting .406 after going 2-for-5.