The late innings haunted the Valparaiso University baseball team for the second consecutive day on Saturday afternoon in Bowling Green, Ky. Western Kentucky followed Friday’s walk-off win with another one-run victory, nipping Valpo 4-3 after snapping a 2-2 tie with two runs in the eighth. Junior college transfer Wes Gordon (Waukegan, Ill. / Warren [Lake County]) turned in a quality start in his Crusader debut, but received no decision.
How It Happened
- The game started the same way Game 1 of the series ended – with a Western Kentucky home run. Colie Currie clubbed a home run down the left field line to lead off the bottom of the first.
- After the wobbly start to his Valpo debut, Gordon settled in and retired the next three batters in the first before posting zeros in the second, third and fourth frames. The Hilltoppers’ best scoring chance during that stretch came in the second when Game 1 hero Kaleb Duckworth started the frame with a double. Western Kentucky had runners at first and second with one away when Gordon induced a 4-6-3 double play to wiggle out of the jam.
- The Crusaders (0-2) leveled the score when Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) lashed a single to plate Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean), who had reached on an error.
- Valpo grabbed the lead when Nate Palace (West Lake Village, Calif. / Oaks Christian) launched a triple to right to start the fourth and Jake Hanson (Yorkville, Ill. / Aurora Christian) followed with a run-scoring single. Valpo had a chance for more in that frame, but Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mt. Carmel) grounded into a twin killing, erasing a two-on, one-out opportunity.
- The Hilltoppers (2-0) drilled their second long ball of the day when Ray Zuberer went yard to begin the bottom of the fifth inning, tying the game at two.
- The Crusaders let a scoring chance slip away in the top of the sixth, when they couldn’t cash in after having runners at first and second with nobody out and the bases loaded with two down. Three players struck out in the inning.
- Just as he did the first time, Gordon responded well after serving up the home run. He got the next three men in the fifth, tossed a scoreless sixth and retired the first batter of the seventh before departing with the score still tied at two.
- Nick Leaverton (Mission Viejo, Calif. / Capistrano Valley) came in from the Valpo bullpen and struck out the only batter he opposed, then Alex Dirienzo (Somerset, Pa. / Somerset [Akron]) recorded the final out of the seventh.
- Valpo was once again hurt by a home run in the bottom of the eighth, when Dirienzo served up a two-run big fly to Thomas Peter, giving the Hilltoppers a 4-2 advantage.
- The Crusaders made it interesting in the ninth, as back-to-back singles by Kapers and Dawson placed two runners aboard with nobody out. James Stea advanced the tying run into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, then Jacob bounced out to short, plating Dawson and moving Kapers to third. Western Kentucky closer Jackson Sowell nailed down his first save of the year by getting Giovanni Garbella (San Diego, Calif. / Cathedral Catholic) to sky to center for the final out of the game.
Inside the Game
- Jacob went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs and already has as many multi-hit games as he had during the entirety of an injury-riddled 2016 season. This marked his first multiple-RBI performance since May 20, 2015.
- Palace collected three hits including a three-bagger, his third career triple.
- Gordon yielded just two runs (two earned) – both on solo homers – over 6 1/3 innings of five-hit ball. He racked up eight strikeouts and walked just one.
- Dirienzo was hit with the loss in his season debut, allowing two runs (two earned) on three hits in 2/3 of an inning.
- Kevin Elder was the winning pitcher in relief for the Hilltoppers, while starter Cody Coll received no decision after scattering eight hits and two walks but yielding just two runs (one earned) over five innings.
- Every player in Valpo’s starting lineup has at least one hit so far this season, just two games in.
- Freshman Christian Barczi (Naperville, Ill. / Naperville North) made his Valpo debut as a pinch hitter to start the eighth and grounded out.
The series concludes on Sunday at 1 p.m. as the Crusaders take another crack at their first victory of the season. Sophomore RHP Grant Inman will take the ball for the Crusaders, while McLennan junior college transfer RHP Paul Kirkpatrick will make his Hilltoppers debut. This weekend’s games have a video feed available on WKUSports.tv. To access the online stream, fans must purchase a WKUSports.tv subscription ($9.95 monthly, $79.95 yearly). Links to live video and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.