From the moment he made his first plate appearance in a Valpo uniform, junior Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) has achieved offensive accomplishment after offensive accomplishment. But he outdid himself on Tuesday, enjoying his most noteworthy day at the dish yet by becoming the first Valpo player in 10 years with a three-homer game. In the process, he helped Valpo to an 18-13 win over Western Michigan at Robert J. Bobb Stadium in Kalamazoo.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders (16-27) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning as Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) ripped a double and crossed the dish on a Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) single to left. Kapers scored himself three batters later, when Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean) clubbed an RBI double.
- Billinger lined a home run to lead off the third, extending Valpo’s lead to 3-0.
- The Crusaders tacked on four runs in the fourth, an inning highlighted by Billinger’s second home run of the day, this time a three-run blow to dead center.
- Western Michigan (20-22) got right back in the game by virtue of a six-run fourth that featured two home runs.
- Jacob led off the fifth with his second hit of the day, then scored on a ground ball by Jayden Eggimann (Mesa, Ariz. / Desert Ridge [Central Arizona / Grand Canyon]) to expand the lead to 8-6.
- The Broncos got back within a run in the fifth as Drew Devine tripled and scored. The Crusaders took a narrow 8-7 edge to the sixth.
- Billinger did it again with one away in the sixth, securing the three-homer game by yanking a solo shot to right. That Billinger bomb expanded Valpo’s lead to 9-7.
- Kapers tacked on a two-run single, then a bases-loaded walk and a bases-loaded HBP allowed the Crusaders to score twice more to complete a five-run frame, growing the lead to 13-7.
- After WMU scored single runs in the sixth and seventh, Garbella got in on the home-run act in the eighth with a three-run tape measure blow over the left-field fence. Jacob and Kapers added run-scoring hits by the time the inning ended, making it another five-run frame for Valpo. That opened the lead to 18-9.
- Western Michigan got exactly one run for the fourth straight inning in the eighth, then scored three times in the bottom of the ninth to account for the final runs of the game.
Inside the Game
- Billinger became the first Valpo player with a three-homer game since Andrew Quinnette in 2008. Earlier this season, Billinger also became the first Valpo player with a three-double game since Quinnette in 2008.
- Kapers went 5-for-5, becoming the third Valpo player with a five-hit game this season and establishing a career high for hits in a game. He also drove in four. In addition, the Valpo catcher cut down a pair of Broncos who were attempting to steal second. Two years ago when Valpo made its most recent trip to Kalamazoo prior to Tuesday, Kapers gunned down three would-be base stealers.
- Valpo has three players with five-hit games this year after not having more than one in any of the last seven seasons.
- Billinger became the first player in the Missouri Valley Conference and the 23rd player in the nation with a three-homer game this season. The three home runs came in consecutive plate appearances as Billinger went deep in the third, fourth and sixth innings.
- Billinger’s home runs were his fourth, fifth and sixth of the season and his 25th, 26th and 27th extra-base hits.
- Billinger became the first Crusader with a multi-homer game this season. A year ago, two Valpo players had two-homer games – Nate Palace (March 21 at Chicago State) and Giovanni Garbella (April 18 vs. Chicago State).
- Garbella’s home run was his eighth of the season, moving him into sole possession of the team lead.
- Jacob enjoyed a four-hit game, the first of his career.
- Alex Dirienzo (Somerset, Pa. / Somerset [Akron]) was credited with the win to improve to 1-2, while Zach Mehelich (0-1) took the loss for Western Michigan.
The Crusaders and Broncos will do it again on Wednesday, this time at Emory G. Bauer Field for the back end of a home-and-home. Wednesday’s game is a makeup game from a contest that was postponed in early April. The game will begin at 1 p.m. CT and will air on 95.1 FM Valparaiso. Links to live audio and stats will be available. Stay tuned to ValpoAthletics.com for any weather-related changes.