The Valparaiso University baseball team ventured to the alma mater of head coach Brian Schmack on Tuesday afternoon for its annual nonconference showdown with Northern Illinois. The Crusaders took a significant bite out of a 10-0 deficit with a seven-run eighth, but the Huskies held on for the 10-7 win at McKenzie Field in DeKalb.
How It Happened
- The Huskies (16-28) grabbed an early lead with a pair of first-inning runs. Samuel Vega walked to lead off the game and eventually crossed the plate on a wild pitch, while Kam Smith bounced an RBI single through the left side to make it 2-0.
- Valpo starter Michael Mommersteeg (St. Thomas, Ont., Canada / St. Joseph’s) was lifted after the first inning and replaced by Jarrett Hammel (Brook, Ind. / South Newton [Saint Joseph’s College]). NIU got the first two runners on base in the second and moved them to second and third with one away, but Hammel got out of the frame unscathed.
- Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) made an impressive defensive play in the third inning, sliding into the fence in foul territory while snagging it for the second out of the third. As an encore, Jacob sprinted in from his position at third to make a catch on another ball in foul territory near the backstop to end the inning.
- After NIU starter George Faue sent down 11 straight to start the game, Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) became Valpo's first baserunner with a two-out single in the fourth. That was the first of three straight two-out singles for the Crusaders, who left the bases full after a snazzy defensive play by NIU second baseman Alex Rodriguez.
- The Huskies threatened with runners at second and third and one away again in the fourth, but for the second time in the game they failed to capitalize on that opportunity. Valpo senior Hayden Kissee (Cumerland, Ind. / Greenfield Central [Kaskaskia College]), who entered the game with one on and nobody out, escaped the jam to keep the deficit at two.
- Valpo (15-24) had two outfield assists in the fifth inning as both Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) and Jayden Eggimann (Desert Ridge [Central Arizona / Grand Canyon]) cut down runners at the plate with strong throws from the outfield. However, two other NIU runners successfully reached home in that inning, doubling the lead to 4-0.
- The first seven batters of the sixth inning reached base for NIU, allowing the Huskies to score six times in the inning and expand the lead to 10-0. Luke VanLanen (Pulaski, Wis. / Pulaski) got three straight outs including two strikeouts when he was summoned from the bullpen to stop the bleeding.
- The Crusaders loaded the bases for the second time in the game in the seventh, but they once again stranded runners at every station.
- Valpo broke through in the eighth inning, taking advantage of three walks, a hit batter and an error. Kapers walked with the bases loaded, hits by Eggimann and Brent Jones (Ankeny, Iowa / Ankeny Centennial [Iowa Central]) each drove in a pair and Billinger belted a two-run double to make it a 10-7 game.
- Valpo senior Alex Dirienzo (Somerset, Pa. / Somerset [Akron]) sent down the side in order in the eighth, keeping the deficit at three going to the ninth.
- The Crusaders were unable to do any ninth-inning damage against Andrew Frankenreider, who obtained his fifth save.
Inside the Game
- Garbella extended his on-base streak to 18 games. In fact, the Valpo right fielder reached three times in the game.
- Mommersteeg took the defeat to drop to 1-2 after allowing two runs on two hits and one walk in one inning. Faue (1-6) picked up the win with six shutout innings of four-hit ball for NIU.
- Hammel, VanLanen and Dirienzo were all effective out of the Valpo bullpen. Hammel and VanLanen threw two shutout frames each, while Dirienzo worked the 1-2-3 eighth.
- Billinger remained a doubles machine, cracking his 20th of the season. He enjoyed his team-leading 18th multi-hit game of the season.
The Crusaders will be back in action on Friday as they begin a three-game series against Missouri State at Emory G. Bauer Field. The first pitch is slated for 3 p.m. as the Crusaders and Bears go at it. The game can be heard on 95.1 FM Valparaiso and followed via live stats (StatBroadcast).