Jon Gulbransen (Appleton, Wis./Fox Valley Lutheran H.S.) went seven strong innings matching his career high with 10 strikeouts as Valparaiso wrapped up its 23-game road trip with a 5-2 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday at Rocky Miller Park in Evanston, Ill.
Gulbransen allowed just one run and three hits to earn the win (2-4), matching his strikeout high set last season at McNeese State. He walked just two.
“He threw 90 percent fastballs today and hit his spots both in and out,” head coach Tracy Woodson said. “That’s the key to being successful.”
Northwestern scored first, taking advantage of one of the two walks. Kyle Ruchim drew a one-out pass and moved up on a wild pitch. Paul Snieder drove him home with a two-out single.
Valpo came back and immediately tied the game in the second. Robbie Robinson (Brea, Calif./Olinda H.S.) was hit to lead off the inning and Ryan O’Gara (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Buffalo Grove H.S.) followed with a walk. Corey Thibault (Tustin, Calif./Foothill H.S.) loaded the bases with a single and Robinson eventually scored on a fielder’s choice.
Two innings later the Crusaders took the lead for good. Bobby Martin (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge H.S.) singled with one out and Thibault moved him to third with a double. Andrew Bain (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor H.S.) loaded the bases with a two-out walk and Kyle Gaedele (Arlington Heights, Ill./Rolling Meadows H.S.) delivered the big hit, a bases clearing triple to straight away center.
“That was a big hit for us,” Woodson said. “He came up with that situation in the second and didn’t get it done. We needed that hit.”
Bain got the Crusaders another run in the seventh, drawing a walk and stealing second. He then scored on a two-out hit by Chris Manning (Lake Forest, Ill./El Toro H.S.).
“Our hits with two outs were what helped us,” Woodson added.
Northwestern (7-14) got its final run in the eighth as Trevor Stevens was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, moved up on a passed ball and a ground out, and scored on a wild pitch. The Wildcats brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth following a double and an error, but a fielder’s choice ended the game.
Thibault was the only Crusader with two hits as Valpo had just six for the day, but they were all timely. Paul Snieder had three of Northwestern’s four hits.
Jack Havey started and suffered the loss (1-3) for the Wildcats, allowing four runs and five hits in four innings of work.
Valaparaiso (4-19) will return to Emory G. Bauer Field on Friday for its home opener and the beginning of a five-game homestand. The Crusaders will host UIC beginning at 3 p.m. in the first of a three-game Horizon League weekend series.