The Valparaiso University baseball team scored five runs in the first four innings against Alabama on Saturday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa, but the bats went quiet after that and the Crimson Tide eventually rallied from 5-1 down to capture a 6-5 victory in walk-off fashion.
How It Happened
- For the second consecutive day, the Crusaders (0-2) jumped on the board first. Once again, it was junior Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) providing a first-inning RBI, this time as he clubbed a double to right center to score Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean), who led off with a single.
- Starting pitcher Trey Ferketic (Laguna Niguel, Calif. / JSerra [UC San Diego]) issued three walks and a hit batter in the bottom of the first, but was able to escape with minimal damage. A bases loaded one out spot turned into only one tally, as the inning eventually ended on a pop up to third base.
- The Crusaders regained the lead in the second when Dawson delivered an opposite-field, two-out, two-run two-bagger to make it 3-1 Valpo.
- The fourth inning followed a similar script, as once again it was Dawson coming up with a clutch two-out hit. This time the junior second baseman ripped a single to drive in Jayden Eggimann, who had come up with a run-scoring, two-out hit of his own moments earlier. Dawson’s hit was his third of the game, and he played a key role in each of Valpo’s three run-scoring innings.
- Alabama (2-0) got a run back in the fourth as Matt Malkin cracked a solo homer to right center to start the frame.
- Ferketic battled through four innings and limited the damage to two earned runs on two hits despite facing control issues in his first start while shaking off rust. He walked six and hit two batters.
- Cobie Vance spanked a two-run homer in the sixth, whittling the Valpo lead to one at 5-4.
- The Crimson Tide tied it in the eighth when Luke VanLanen (0-1) hit a batter with the bases loaded, then Joe Breaux rapped a run-scoring single through the right side that lifted Alabama to a walk-off victory.
Inside the Game
- Dawson’s three hits matched a career high as this marked the second three-hit game of his career. The first came during his freshman season, when he went 3-for-6 on March 20, 2016 at Northern Kentucky. It was also the junior’s second career three RBI game, with the first coming on April 26, 2016 against Chicago State.
- The top third of the Valpo lineup combined to go 7-for-14 as Sam Shaikin and Billinger chipped in two hits apiece.
- Zack Leone (Pelham Manor, N.Y. / Fordham Prep [Susquehanna]) was the fourth Crusader with a multi-hit game on Saturday. He’s now collected five hits in his first two games in a Valpo uniform.
- The Crusaders banged out exactly 13 hits in the second game of the season for the second consecutive year. They outhit the Crimson Tide 13-8, but took just one free pass to Alabama’s 15 (10 walks, 5 HBP).
- Dylan Duarte (1-0) was the winner after going 1 1/3 scoreless out of the Alabama bullpen. Kyle Cameron also had a strong showing in relief, going 2 2/3 scoreless. All of Valpo’s damage came against starter Jack Walters, who allowed five runs on nine hits in five innings.
- Eight of the nine Valpo players in the lineup had at least one hit.
The Crusaders and Crimson Tide will close out the series on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. CT at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The game can once again be seen on WatchESPN, this time without a full broadcast setup. The contest will still feature live video and the radio call courtesy of Chris Stewart (play-by-play) and Lee Tracey (color commentary). RHP Wes Gordon will make his season debut in Sunday’s series finale, while Alabama has tabbed RHP Sam Gardner as its starting pitcher.