The Valparaiso University baseball team secured its first Missouri Valley Conference series win as a first-year member of the league on Sunday afternoon, playing quality baseball on the way to a 6-1 victory over Evansville at Braun Field. The Crusader pitching staff held the Purple Aces to two runs or fewer in both wins this weekend. Senior Wes Gordon (Gurnee, Ill. / Warren [Lake Country]) was on the bump for Sunday’s series finale and turned in a quality start to garner his first victory of 2018.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders (14-20, 4-5) bounced the opposing pitcher early for the fourth straight game, as Evansville’s Nathan Croner lasted just 1/3 of an inning. Valpo scored twice against him as Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) doubled to drive in a run, then crossed the dish when Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
- Evansville (7-26, 1-8) made its way onto the scoreboard when Andrew Tanous launched a solo homer to begin the second inning. The Purple Aces had a chance for more with a pair on base in that frame, but Gordon induced an inning-ending double play.
- Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean) tripled to start the fourth and scored on a sacrifice fly by Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) that expanded the lead to 4-1.
- Shaikin lifted his second sac fly of the day, bolstering the edge to 5-1 in the sixth.
- After allowing back-to-back baserunners to start the seventh, a strong start came to an end for Gordon. Senior Hayden Kissee (Cumberland, Ind. / Greenfield Central [Kaskaskia College]) was summoned by Brian Schmack and immediately induced a critical 6-4-3 double play. A fly ball to shallow center eventually retired the side without any runs crossing the dish.
- Billinger aided Kissee with a highlight-reel defensive effort in left for the first out of the eighth inning. That began a sharp eighth for the senior righty, as he sent down the Purple Aces in order.
- Kissee worked another smooth inning in the bottom of the ninth, finishing the game with three scoreless frames to gain his first save of the season.
Inside the Game
- Valpo has scored in the first inning in five straight games.
- Dawson moved into sole possession of the league lead in triples with his fifth of the season. He is the first Valpo player with five triples in a season since Kyle Gaedele had eight in 2010.
- Billinger moved into sole possession of the league lead in doubles with 16.
- Billinger led the Valpo offense with a three-hit showing, his team-leading 17th multi-hit game of the season and his sixth three-hit output of the year, also tops on the team.
- Gordon (1-4) turned in six strong innings, scattering seven hits while walking two and striking out four.
- Gordon limited the opposition to fewer than two runs for the first time since March 24 of last season at UIC. He also gained his first win of the season and his first victory since April 8, 2017 against Northern Kentucky.
- This marked the fourth time this season Valpo has drawn 10 walks or more.
- Kissee has worked five scoreless innings over his last two appearances.
The Crusaders will make the trip to Notre Dame, Ind. on Tuesday for a date with the Fighting Irish, an instate foe from the ACC. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available. The game will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.