It wasn’t easy by any means, but the Valparaiso University baseball team pulled off a doubleheader sweep of Northern Kentucky at Emory G. Bauer Field on Saturday. Both games saw the Crusaders build sizeable leads, then hold on for dear life in exhilarating victories. Valpo picked up an 8-7 win in Game 1, before winning the nightcap 10-9.
How It Happened – Game 1
- The Crusaders (11-16, 3-5 Horizon) showed early on that Saturday would be the day they busted out of their recent offensive slump. They set the tone on a pleasant day that featured the wind blowing out by posting a five spot in the opening frame.
- Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) started the scoring with a single up the middle to plate James Stea (Los Alamitos, Calif. / Los Alamitos [Golden West]), then Jake Hanson (Yorkville, Ill. / Aurora Christian) ripped a double to right center to double the lead. Christian Barzi (Naperville, Ill. / Naperville North) and Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) got in on the act with run-scoring singles, before Dent scored the fifth run of the inning as Stea reached on an error.
- Stea lifted a fly ball to deep center in the third inning, and the Norse center fielder camped underneath but could not make the catch. Stea again reached via an error, and this time Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) scored from second to extend Valpo’s lead to half a dozen.
- Dominic Mercurio blasted a solo homer to left center to lead off the fourth, the first damage against Valpo starter Mario Losi (Anaheim, Calif. / Canyon). That put the Norse (10-18, 5-3 Horizon) on the board and cut Valpo’s lead back to five.
- The Crusaders had a response in the bottom of the inning, as Nate Palace (West Lake Village, Calif. / Oaks Christian) led off with a double before coming in to score on a single to center by Barczi that made it 7-1 Crusaders.
- For the second straight inning, Northern Kentucky led off with a solo blast in the top of the fifth. This one came from Jake Richmond to make it 7-2.
- Losi left after six strong innings (7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO), as Valpo turned the ball over to the bullpen needing nine outs and holding a five-run cushion.
- The Norse picked up a run on a Trey Ganns RBI single against Montana Quigley (Lake Forest, Calif. / El Toro) in the seventh. Valpo responded in the bottom of the frame, as Palace banged a double to center, plating Jacob to make it 8-3.
- The Norse notched another single tally in the eighth against Quigley on a RBI single up the middle by Richmond.
- Chet Joslyn (Battle Creek, Mich. / Lakeview) walked back-to-back hitters to begin the top of the ninth, prompting Brian Schmack to bring in Jon Tieman (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge) with two on and nobody out with Valpo leading 8-4.
- Two singles later, Northern Kentucky had sliced the advantage in half, as Mecurio’s single to left center plated a pair and made it 8-6 with still nobody out and runners at first and third for Northern Kentucky.
- Tieman caught Kyle Colletta looking for the first out of the inning, then Mike Moffatt ripped a run-scoring single to make it 8-7. Pinch hitter Ty Amann attempted a safety squeeze bunt, but Palace fielded the ball and threw it to Kapers to retire Mercurio at the plate and keep Valpo in the lead.
- Richmond fanned for the final out of the game, allowing the Crusader to eke out the victory.
Inside Game 1
- Losi’s Game 1 win was his first of the season, with his last W coming on April 22, 2016 at UIC. His last five decisions dating back to last year were all defeats before he broke through by earning the win on Saturday. He upped his season record to 1-3.
- Northern Kentucky starter JeanFrancois Dionne was charged with seven runs (five earned) in 3 2/3 innings. He gave up 10 hits and walked a pair while taking the defeat to drop to 2-2.
- Tieman earned his seventh save, extending his Horizon League lead. He has already matched Ryan Fritze’s team-leading total of seven from 2016 and surpassed Bryce Yoder’s team-high of six from 2015.
- Barczi enjoyed his second three-hit game of the season, while fellow freshman Dent posted his first career three-hit performance. Barczi also drove in a pair, his first career multi-RBI game.
- Palace went 2-for-5 to secure his team-leading 11th multi-hit game of the year.
How It Happened – Game 2
- The Crusaders got on the board first again in the nightcap as Hanson doubled to drive in Jacob in the bottom of the first.
- That lead grew in the second as Valpo plated a pair. Kapers ripped a single to drive in the first run of the frame, then scored the other on a sac fly by Jacob.
- Northern Kentucky continued its theme of solo homers as T.J. Alas drilled one against Valpo starter Wes Gordon (Waukegan, Ill. / Warren [Lake County]) in the top of the third.
- Valpo got two more runs in the bottom of the third by virtue of an RBI double by Barczi and an RBI single by Kapers.
- The fourth inning saw the Crusaders expand the lead to eight at 9-1 as they scored four times. Hanson clubbed his second run-scoring double of the game, Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) got in on the act with an RBI double and Dent lifted a sac fly.
- Gordon went out to begin the sixth inning holding a 9-1 lead. He allowed a single followed by back-to-back walks and exited the game with the bases juiced and nobody out. Alex Dirienzo (Somerset, Pa. / Somerset [Akron]) came in and gave up a two-run double to Colletta, with both runs charged to Gordon.
- The next batter hit a sac fly, with that run also charged to Gordon. A walk to Brad Bohlen followed, leading to Dirienzo’s departure.
- Ellis Foreman (Round Rock, Texas / Stony Point) gave up a two-run double to the first man he faced, but then induced a ground ball back to the mound that finally ended the inning, but not before Northern Kentucky scored five times to make it 9-6.
- The Crusaders got what proved to be an important run in the bottom of the sixth as Kapers reached on an E-6 and Shaikin scored an unearned tally.
- The Norse powered their way right back into the game in the top of the eighth, as Luke VanLanen (Pulaski, Wis. / Pulaski) gave up two dingers – a two-run blow to Roberts and a solo blast to Alas, making it 10-9 Valpo.
- Freshman Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland) came in and sent down all four men he faced, including a pair of strikeouts, to nail down a four-out save.
Inside Game 2
- This was Valpo’s sixth straight one-run game. The Crusaders dropped the first three during that stretch, and have now rapped off three consecutive one-run wins.
- Jacob extended his on-base streak to 16, while Hanson has reached safely in 15 straight and Shaikin has reached in 12 in a row.
- Hanson boosted his hitting streak to 11, while Palace’s 14-game hitting streak came to an end.
- Rhodehouse’s save was the first of his career. He became the third Crusader to earn a save this season and the first other than Tieman to pick up a conventional save (Quigley’s was by virtue of three quality innings of relief in a lopsided win over Chicago State).
- Valpo was 0-9 when opponents score six runs or more before Saturday’s game. They won both games while allowing six runs or more.
- Gordon got the win in his Emory G. Bauer debut, allowing four runs on four hits in five innings while issuing four walks. Gordon had walked just six total in his first seven starts of the year.
- Ganns was handed the loss to drop to 2-5 after yielding five runs (five earned) on nine hits in 2 2/3 innings.
- Jacob, Hanson and Kapers racked up three-hits apiece. It was Hanson’s first three-hit game of the year.
- Five total Crusaders had multi-hit games, with Stea and Shaikin turning in two each.
The Crusaders and Norse will round out the three-game set on Sunday afternoon with the first pitch slated for 1 p.m. Grant Inman is scheduled to pitch for Valpo, while Northern Kentucky sends Pat Kelley to the mound. The game can be heard on 95.1 FM Valparaiso, WVUR with David Horak providing play-by-play and Ethan Leach adding color commentary. Links to live audio and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.