The offensive woes continued for the Crusaders on Sunday as they dropped a 5-3 affair to Butler at Bulldog Park in Indianapolis. Despite out-hitting Butler 10-8, Valparaiso was 2-for-10 at the plate with runners in scoring position.
It was a pitch-by-committee day for the Brown and Gold as all three weekend starters saw two innings apiece.
The Crusader pitching staff surrendered a first-inning run for the fourth consecutive game. The only batter senior Cole Webb (Tulsa, Okla./Union [Coffeyville CC]) allowed to reach base eventually scored. Marcos Calderon poked a double down the right field line to lead off the game. He moved to third on a Chris Maranto sacrifice bunt. With the infield back, Bulldog outfielder Michael Fries guided an RBI groundout towards the middle of the field. Calderon came home on the 4-3 putout.
Following a Karch Kowalczyk (Peru, Ill./La Salle-Peru) single to lead off the top of the second, 18 straight batters were retired as the first four innings took just under 40 minutes to play. Sophomore Dalton Lundeen (Streamwood, Ill./Streamwood) got in on the quick action as the lefty fired two dominant innings, striking out a pair. Only one ball traveled out of the infield on Lundeen's watch.
Michael Morman (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) brought the string of five perfect half-innings to a halt with a leadoff knock in the 5th. With Morman in motion, Andy Burns (Edwardsville, Ill./Edwardsville [Heartland CC]) slapped an opposite-field base hit. Kyle Schneider (Mishawaka, Ind./Penn) promptly moved Morman and Burns into scoring position with a sac bunt. Jake Hanson tied things up when he sent a 3-2 delivery to left field, scoring Morman from third.
Butler regained the lead in its ensuing at-bat.
Freshman Mario Losi (Anaheim, Calif./Canyon) took over for Lundeen before yielding a leadoff single to Quincy Quintero. Quintero advanced to second as the ball skipped past Spencer Mahoney (La Grange Park, Ill./Lyons Township) in left. Ryan Wojciechowski bunted Quintero to third. Burns flashed his range at second base when he made a diving stop to his right on a grounder off the bat of Nick Bartolone. The defensive gem saved a run for only a short time as Mike Kseniak and Marco Caponi recorded back-to-back two-out RBI singles. Butler led 3-1 after five innings.
Valpo responded right back to cut the deficit in half in the 6th. Jeff Edwards (Massillon, Ohio/Jackson) and Chris Manning (Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro) both smacked singles off Bulldog starter Eric Stout to get things going. Butler temporarily stopped the momentum when Stout picked Edwards off second base with Kowalczyk at the plate. The miscue came back to bite Valpo a few pitches later when Kowalczyk ripped a double off the top of the left field fence. Manning scored on the two-bagger to make it a 3-2 game.
Butler pushed a run across in its at-bat following the stretch. After plunking Wojciechowski with his first pitch of the afternoon, Bryce Yoder (Spencerville, Ind./Eastside) settled down to retire the next two Bulldog batters. The Crusaders appeared poised to get out of the inning unscathed when Yoder got Caponi to send a grounder to short. The ball took a nasty hop on its last bounce as it eluded Edwards to prolong the frame. Calderon, the next batter, sent a double to right center that brought in Wojciechowski for a 4-2 lead.
The Bulldogs extended their advantage to 5-2 in the 8th. Zack Walsh (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville [Connecticut]) issued free passes to the first two batters of the inning before a sac bunt moved them into scoring position with just one out. Bartolone won an eleven-pitch battle as the outfielder slapped an opposite-field run-scoring single.
The Crusaders finally got to Bulldog closer Billy Laing in the 9th. With one out, Edwards took a pitch off the elbow before Manning tallied his second hit of the day. The single brought Kowalczyk to the plate representing the tying run. Kowalczyk smoked a single into right center to load the bases for Morman. Morman drove in a run on a fielder's choice, extending the game to Burns. Laing got Burns to hit a high chopper towards first but Wojciechowski won the foot race to the first base bag as Valpo dropped its fourth tilt in a row.
Kowalczyk tied a career-high with four hits, a mark set back on April 5th, 2010 versus Wabash College.
Valpo (9-11) will face Notre Dame (9-17) Tuesday for the second straight week. The Crusaders will send RHP Ellis Foreman (1-1, 4.24) to the hill in a 5:35 pm ET/4:35 pm CT first pitch at Four Winds Field in South Bend, Indiana.