Valparaiso jumped out to a five-run lead after one inning on Sunday afternoon, and defeated UIC 8-2 to take two of three games from the Flames in the weekend series at Emory G. Bauer Field.
With the victory, the Crusaders have assured themselves no worse than a second place finish in the Horizon League standings and have earned an opening round bye in the Horizon League Baseball Championship which begins on May 23.
“It was nice to come out and swing the bats like we did,” head coach Tracy Woodson said afterwards.
The first four Crusaders tallied hits in the opening inning. Andrew Bain (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor H.S.) led off with a single and moved to third when Tanner Vavra (Menomonie, Wis./Menomonie H.S.) reached on a bunt single and a throwing error. Chris Manning (Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro H.S.) singled home Bain with the game’s first run and Will Hagel (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect H.S.) made it 2-0 with a single up the middle.
Elliott Martin (Irvine, Calif./University H.S.) plated the third run with a sacrifice fly before John Loeffler (Burnsville, Minn./Burnsville H.S.) singled to put two runners aboard again. Billy Cribbs (Rochester, Mich./Rochester H.S.) delivered a two-run double down the left field line to make it 5-0 Crusaders.
Hagel added Valpo’s sixth run, singling home Bain, who tallied his second hit of the game leading off the second.
That would be all the runs that Kyle Wormington (Norman, Okla./North H.S.) need for his fifth win (5-5) of the season. The junior allowed just two hits in the first five innings of work before giving up RBI singles to Joe Betcher and Alex Grunenwald in the sixth. He finished the game pitching 7.2 innings, allowing just the two runs on six hits while striking out seven.
“Worm pitched well again today,” said Woodson. “The hits he gave up here all up in the zone. When he keeps it down he is very successful.”
The Crusaders added two more in the eighth. Loeffler and Spencer Mahoney (LaGrange Park, Ill./Lyons Township H.S.) drew back-to-back two out walks and Cribbs singled home his third run of the game. Bain added a RBI single as well to finish a three-hit afternoon.
“We had a bit of a lull in the middle of the game and they started to fight back,” Woodson added. “I keep telling the guys we need to keep battling.”
Hagel and Cribbs each had two-hit days in addition to Cribbs three as Valpo tallied 11 on the day. The Crusaders have tallied double figure hit totals in seven of their last nine games.
Tim Tarter suffered the loss (0-3) for UIC (17-31, 10-16 Horizon), allowing five runs and six hits in just two-thirds of an inning. Grunenwald and Alex Lee each had two hits for the Flames, which totaled just seven on the afternoon.
“We have to be ready to go on Tuesday, and then next weekend,” Woodson concluded. “We just need to take care of business and see if we can get any help.”
Valparaiso (29-22, 19-8), which is 4-1 on its current nine-game homestand, will return to the diamond on Tuesday afternoon for its final non-conference game of the season, hosting Chicago State. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. at Emory G. Bauer Field.