Valparaiso bounced back from an opening game 9-4 loss at Gardner-Webb to post a 10-4 victory in the night cap as the Crusaders took the series from the Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon at Sims Legion Park in Gastonia, N.C.
“We played pretty well again today,” head coach Tracy Woodson said. “Both starters pitched well and we got a lot of key hits with two outs when men were in scoring position. In the second game we kept building on our lead which is something we didn’t do the first game.”
Bryce Shafer (Wabash, Ind./Northfield H.S.) went eight innings in game two, allowing just one run and six hits while striking out nine and walking just three to pick up the win (2-1). Ryan O’Gara (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Buffalo Grove H.S.) led five Crusaders with multi-hit efforts, tallying three hits as Valpo had 12 in the game.
O’Gara started the Valpo scoring leading off the second with a homerun to right and Billy Cribbs (Rochester, Mich./Rochester H.S.) added a sacrifice fly in the inning to give the Crusaders a 2-0 lead.
A Kyle Gaedele (Arlington Heights, Ill./Rolling Meadows H.S.) single in the third drove home Kyle Muhlsteff (Yorba Linda, Calif./Esperanza H.S.), who doubled, and then scored on a double by O’Gara. Justin Frane (Huntertown, Ind./Carroll H.S.) followed with a base hit to increase the advantage to 5-0 after two-and-a-half innings.
Gardner-Webb (6-10) got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third on a homer by Adam McFarland, the only run Shafer would allow on the afternoon.
Valpo added five runs in the seventh to secure the victory. A Muhlsteff double and Gaedele single plated the first two runs and Robbie Robinson (Brea, Calif./Olina H.S.) added the third run with a single. Cribbs added his second and third RBIs of the game with a two-out double to make the score 10-1 Valpo.
The Bulldogs scored three times in the ninth, two on a single by Daniel Merck followed by a run-scoring single by Aaron Miller, but the rally came too late.
Muhlsteff, Gaedele, Frane, and Cribbs each had two-hit games for the Crusaders and Valpo knocked starter Matt Liedberg (0-1) out of the game after just 2.1 innings, allowing five runs and five hits.
In the opener, Valpo also jumped in front early, only to see Gardner-Webb score nine of the last 10 runs to rally for the victory. Gaedele’s two-run homer in the third also scored Damon McCormick (Louisville, Ky./Saint Xavier H.S.) and gave the Crusaders the lead.
A Frane double in the fifth made it 3-0 Crusaders before the Bulldogs tied it in the sixth with three runs. A two-run double by Stefan Morris tied the game with two outs.
Valpo retook the lead in the top of the seventh as a McCormick single scored Paul Heinkel (Fond du Lac, Wis./Winnebago Lutheran Academy). The lead did not last long though, as a grand slam in the bottom of the inning by Ty Boyles put Gardner-Webb on top for good. The Bulldogs added two insurance runs in the eighth to secure the victory.
Jon Gulbransen (Appleton, Wis./Fox Valley Lutheran H.S.) started on the mound for Valpo, working six innings and allowing three runs while fanning five. Steve Godawa (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Buffalo Grove H.S.) suffered the loss (0-2) in relief. Brock Wilson (3-1) earned the win in relief for the Bulldogs.
Robinson and McCormick each had three hits in the opener while Gaedele also had two for a multi-hit game.
Valparaiso (5-12) will return to the diamond on Friday afternoon against Southeast Missouri State to start a three-game weekend series. First pitch is set for 3 p.m. in Cape Girardeau, Mo.