Valparaiso scored eight runs in the fifth inning and added five more in the eighth on Thursday evening as the Crusaders opened up play in the Horizon League Baseball Championships with a convincing 16-3 victory over Youngstown State at Les Miller Field in Chicago, Ill.
With the victory, the Crusaders, the tournament’s top seed, will play fourth-seeded UIC on Friday evening in the winner’s bracket championship. Valpo has now won 25 of its last 29 games.
“Everything seemed to work,” head coach Tracy Woodson said after the game. “We hit a lot of line drives everywhere. Even with the wind blowing out we didn’t hit any home runs. Everything was on a line, which bodes well for later when the wind blows in.”
The Crusaders wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, plating a pair of runs in the opening inning. Andrew Bain (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor H.S.) was hit by a pitch to lead off the game and Tanner Vavra (Menomonie, Wis./Menomonie H.S.) followed with a double. Back-to-back sacrifice flies by Chris Manning (Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro H.S.) and Will Hagel (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect H.S.) gave Valpo the early lead.
Tyler Deetjen (Saint Charles, Ill./East H.S.) set the first seven Penguins down in order before Craig Goubeaux homered to left in the third inning.
Valpo’s offense had more chances to build on the lead in the second and fourth innings, but stranded the bases loaded on both occasions.
“I thought we started out fast with those two runs in the first but then we tailed off a bit for a few innings,” Woodson added. “It may have been a bit of the nerves getting started in the tournament.”
The Crusaders finally exploded in the fifth, sending 12 batters to the plate and scoring eight times. Mark Johnson (Evanston, Ill./Evanston Township H.S.) drew a 10-pitch walk to lead off the inning. John Loeffler (Burnsville, Minn./Burnsville H.S.) followed with a single while Elliott Martin (Irvine, Calif./University H.S.) loaded the bases with a bunt hit. Spencer Mahoney (LaGrange Park, Ill./Lyons Township H.S.) came through with a two-run single.
Billy Cribbs (Rochester, Mich./Rochester H.S.) followed with a single up the middle, scoring the third run of the inning before Steven Scoby (Delton, Mich./Delton Kellogg H.S.) came through with a sacrifice fly. Vavra also delivered a sac fly in the inning while Bain scored on a wild pitch. Loeffler plated the final two runs of the frame with a double, giving the Crusaders a 10-1 advantage.
A Bain sacrifice fly in the sixth, the fifth by Valpo in the game, made it a nine-run advantage before the Crusaders tallied five more runs in the eighth.
“We did a great job of finding ways to get the runs in,” said Woodson.
Vavra had a RBI hit as did Loeffler while Martin was hit with the bases loaded to score a run and Mahoney was hit by a pitch with the bases juiced. Scoby plated the final Crusader run with a single to left.
Youngstown State (10-43) scored two runs in the ninth on a two-out single by Jason Shirley to cap the scoring.
Scoby finished the day 4-for-5 at the plate while Loeffler had three hits and three runs batted in. Mahoney also had three RBIs and was 2-for-2 but reached base five times. The Crusaders finished with 18 hits in the contest, the 19th time in the last 26 games Valpo has had double figure hit totals.
David Leon was the only Penguin with more than one hit as Youngstown State finished the night with nine for the game.
Deetjen picked up his seventh win (7-2) of the year, working eight innings, allowing just one runs and six hits. He walked two and struck out four.
“Deetjen was a great matchup for us against all of their lefties in the lineup,” Woodson stated. “He got all of his pitches over which was a key with the wind blowing out like it was.”
Pat Shedlock suffered the loss (0-6) for the Penguins, giving up seven runs and seven hits in four innings of work. He also walked four and hit three batters.
“We need to come out tomorrow ready to go again,” concluded Woodson.
Valparaiso (33-22) will face UIC on Friday evening in the final game of the night, beginning at 8 p.m. The game can be seen live online through the Horizon League Network. The Flames advanced to face the Crusaders with a 19-9 win over Wright State.
Friday’s action will begin with Wright State and Milwaukee playing an elimination game at 10 a.m. with that winner facing Youngstown State at 3 p.m.