A walk-off single by Kyle Gaedele (Arlington Heights, Ill./Rolling Meadows H.S.) in game one and a three-run eighth inning in the nightcap lifted Valparaiso to a doubleheader sweep of Youngstown State on Sunday afternoon at Emory G. Bauer Field. The Crusaders won the opener 4-3 and took game two 5-2 to sweep the weekend series and run their winning streak to eight straight games.
“I’m just ecstatic with how we are playing right now,” head coach Tracy Woodson said. “We are doing all of the little things that we need to do to be successful.”
The Crusaders jumped on top with a run in the first inning of the opener. Steven Scoby (Delton, Mich./Delton Kellogg H.S.) singled with one out and moved to third on a throwing error when Penguin starting pitcher Phil Klein threw the ball away attempting a pick off. Chris Manning (Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro H.S.) grounded out one batter later, but plated Scoby for the game’s first run.
Manning added a lead-off single in the sixth and stole second before Will Hagel (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect H.S.) delivered a run-scoring hit to put the Brown and Gold on top 2-0.
Damon McCormick (Louisville, Ky./Saint Xavier H.S.) pitched a solid ball game for the Crusaders, holding the Penguins off of the scoreboard until the ninth. He retired eight in a row from the sixth through eighth innings, and finished the game with eight strikeouts.
In the ninth, though, Youngstown State rallied. Jeremy Banks led off with a single and Drew Dosch reached on catcher’s interference. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners up 90 feet, Karch Kowalczyk (Peru, Ill./La Salle-Peru H.S.) was summoned from the bullpen. McCormick’s day was done after allowing just six hits in 8.1 innings of work.
Kowalczyk struck out Phil Lipari before pinch hitter Jonathan Crist delivered an infield single to score Banks, making it a 2-1 game. After a pinch-hit walk to Dan Hurlimann loaded the bases, David Leon delivered a two-run single into left, giving Youngstown State a 3-2 lead.
Valpo fought back in the bottom of the ninth off of reliever Kevin McCulloh. Bobby Martin (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge H.S.) led off with a single and moved to third on a one-out double by Michael Morman (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic H.S.). After Andrew Bain (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor H.S.) was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Gaedele delivered the winning two-run single up the middle.
“We showed we don’t quit in that opener,” Woodson said. “We have a different attitude and different mentality right now. We are playing some really good baseball.”
Game two saw the Crusaders again build an early lead. Hagel tripled to lead off the second and scored one batter later on a Robbie Robinson (Brea, Calif./Olina H.S.) double. Valpo added to the lead in the third with an unearned run. Bain led off with a single and moved to third on a failed pickoff attempt by the pitcher Robert Switka. Scoby laid down a perfect squeeze bunt and the Crusaders led 2-0.
Youngstown State (8-25, 3-6 Horizon) got a run back in the fifth as Phil Lipari singled and moved up 90 feet on a passed ball. After a sacrifice bunt moved Lipari to third, Lipari scored on a single by Armani Johnson.
The Penguins tied the game in the eighth as Hurlimann led off with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. An infield single by Jeremy Banks put runners on the corners before Neil Schroth delivered a one-out double to tie the game, and put runners on second and third.
Kevin Wild (Brown Deer, Wis./Brown Deer H.S.) was called in from the bullpen to reliever Tyler Deetjen (Saint Charles, Ill./East H.S.) and induced a pop up and ground out to end the threat.
Deetjen finished the day with a no decision, pitching 7.1 innings allowing just two runs and 11 hits. He did not walk anyone and struck out four.
Valpo answered in the bottom of the inning. Gaedele laid down a bunt single with one out and Scoby drew a walk, chasing Switka. Manning was hit to load the bases and Hagel put Valpo on top with a sacrifice fly to left. Robinson then delivered some insurance with a two out double to plate a pair of runs, giving Valpo the 5-2 advantage.
“Wild comes in and gets us out of the jam without giving up the go ahead run, and we came right back and scored,” Woodson added. “That was huge for us. Gaedele really got us going with a bunt that I think surprised some people.”
Wild earned the win (1-0) in relief, staying on for a 1-2-3 ninth inning. Switka suffered the loss (1-5) allowing four runs and seven hits in 7.1 innings of work.
Valparaiso (14-21, 9-3), winner in 11 of its last 13 games overall, recorded its second straight Horizon League series sweep and has moved into second place in the Horizon League standings. The Crusaders will look for their ninth straight victory on Monday afternoon at Emory G. Bauer Field, wrapping up a five-game homestand hosting Saint Francis (Ind.). First pitch is set for 3 p.m.