A little less than five hours after the Crusaders ended UIC's season thanks to yet another dazzling pitching performance, Valpo saw 2014 come to a close following a 7-0 defeat to Wright State.
Facing elimination, redshirt freshman Ellis Foreman (Round Rock, Texas/Stony Point) turned in eight shutout innings, limiting the UIC Flames to four hits and one walk while striking out five.
The only run of the game came in the Crusaders' half of the fourth.
Seniors Karch Kowalczyk (Peru, Ill./La Salle-Peru) and Andrew Bynum (Huntington Beach, Calif./Ocean View [Orange Coast CC]) lined back-to-back one-out singles off UIC starter Ian Lewandowski. Both were in scoring position when catcher Jake Hanson (Yorkville, Ill./Aurora Christian) deposited a single into center field, scoring Kowalczyk.
Despite no room for error, Foreman consistently made quality pitches both early and late in counts. The Flames loaded the bases against Foreman in the fifth, but the right-hander went to his changeup on 1-0 to coax a lazy fly out from Mickey McDonald.
The leadoff batter for UIC reached in each of Foreman's last three innings of work. The Flames handed Foreman and the Crusaders an out via a sacrifice bunt in both the 7th and 8th innings. On both occasions, Foreman stranded the base runner in scoring position.
Kowalczyk was called upon in the ninth. After Alex Jurich reached on a throwing error to start the inning, the catcher moved up 90 feet on a sacrifice bunt. The Crusader closer got Jon Ryan to pop out for the second out before Zenon Kolakowski lined out to Chris Manning (Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro) for the final out of the ball game.
Kowalczyk earned his 11th save of the year while Foreman improved to 4-6. Lewandowski was credited with the tough-luck loss as the sophomore threw his first complete game of the season allowing just the lone run in the fourth.
Foreman compiled a 1.29 earned-run average in his final four starts in 2014, a stretch spanning 28 innings. In that time frame, he struck out 24 batters and walked just five. Foreman's ERA (4.88) dropped more than two full runs in the month of May.
"Today was a glimmer of how good he (Foreman) can be. He executed the game plan and showed a great deal of promise for the future," head coach Brian Schmack said.
Friday represented the first time since the 1999 campaign that the Crusaders recorded consecutive shutouts against Division I opponents.
With the 1-0 win, Valpo advanced into its third elimination game of the tournament. The first-seeded Wright State Raiders awaited the Crusaders after Youngstown State dropped WSU into the loser's bracket with a 7-1 triumph on Thursday.
Wright State brought the pitching staff's 19-inning scoreless streak to a quick halt when the Raiders plated two in the first inning.
WSU added an insurance tally in the fourth with a Michael Timm squeeze play.
The Crusaders were never able to crack left-hander Robby Sexton. The sophomore bended but never broke as Valpo had two runners reach base in four separate frames. Sexton never allowed a Crusader to cross the plate as he registered his first shutout of the year.
Mario Losi (Anaheim, Calif./Canyon) was tagged with the loss as the freshman surrendered four runs in five innings.
Manning and Michael Morman (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) each went 1-for-4 in the season finale. Both players finished 2014 with identical .296 batting averages (61 hits in 206 at-bats).
Manning closed out his career as one of the best outfielders to ever wear the Brown and Gold. His 264 career hits rank second all-time in school history while his 229 games played is a Valparaiso watermark.
Valpo concluded its season with a 25-28 overall record. The 25 victories were the most ever recorded by a first-year head coach in Valparaiso history.
"First off, I want to thank our graduating seniors. They were a critical part of the culture change of Valparaiso baseball. This program is in the competitive position it is today directly because of their hard work. It truly was an honor to coach them," Schmack said.