Junior Dalton Lundeen (Streamwood, Ill./Streamwood) retired 15 Runnin' Bulldogs in a row at one point during his career-high 10-strikeout performance Friday, but three errors came back to bite the Crusaders in a 5-1 loss at John H. Moss Stadium in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.
"Dalton was fantastic today. He mixed up his fastball and changeup well, and used his slider when he needed to. He looked really good," head coach Brian Schmack said.
Lundeen and the Valpo defense worked some magic in the first inning to keep the game scoreless. With runners on the corners and one away, Collin Thacker raced off from first on the full-count delivery. Lundeen struck out the batter, but once catcher Ray Bartolomucci (Concord, Calif./De La Salle) fired down to second base for the double play, Henry Rundio, the runner from third, dashed towards home as part of a double-steal. Valpo second baseman Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]) wisely cut off the throw and fired home to get Rundio for the third out.
Lundeen settled in nicely after that point and displayed the stuff that earned him Horizon League Co-Pitcher of the Year honors a season ago. The southpaw surrendered a one-out double in the second frame but coaxed a pair of ground outs to strand Jeremy Walker at second.
Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]) supplied Lundeen and the Crusaders with a 1-0 lead in the top of the third. His two-out single plated Mark Johnson (Evanston, Ill./Evanston Township) who got things going with a two-out base hit of his own. Johnson advanced to second after Spencer Mahoney (La Grange Park, Ill./Lyons Township) drew a four-pitch walk.
The middle innings flew by as Lundeen sat down 15 straight batters from the last two outs of the second until the Runnin' Bulldog leadoff man was retired in the seventh. Lundeen racked up seven strikeouts during that span.
Gardner-Webb finally got to the Crusader starter in the seventh. After Thacker went down on strikes for the first out of the inning, Sam Fulginiti stroked a ball to the base of the left-center field wall. Patrick Graham then drove Fulginiti home on a two-strike single. Junior Taylor Fisher pinch-ran for Graham, and subsequently stole second base. With the next batter facing a full-count, Fisher broke for third base and came around to score when the throw soared into left field.
Bryce Yoder (Spencerville, Ind./Eastside) was called on to relieve Lundeen, who turned in 6 1/3 outstanding innings. He struck out a career-high ten batters opposite one walk while yielding two runs on just four hits.
The Runnin' Bulldogs tacked on three insurance tallies in their half of the eighth while their bullpen neutralized the Crusader offense.
Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) greeted freshman righthander Bradley Hallman with a leadoff double in the sixth, but Hallman and Beau Hilton retired the next twelve Valpo batters. Hallman earned the win while Hilton worked the eighth and ninth for his first save of the season.
Lundeen was saddled with the tough-luck loss, his first of the season.
Valpo (0-4) and Gardner-Webb (7-1) will resume their series Saturday afternoon at 2 pm ET/1 pm CT. Ryan Fritze (0-0, 11.57) will oppose Matt Fraudin (2-0, 0.00). Free video streaming will be available courtesy of the Big South Network in addition to live stats. Links are up at ValpoAthletics.com.