Even the most optimistic fans of the Valparaiso University baseball team had to admit that the outlook was bleak with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game at Emory G. Bauer Field. The Crusaders hadn’t scored since the second inning and faced a 2-1 deficit with nobody on base and one out left to work with. Then, the fortunes turned. The next three batters reached, setting the stage for a two-run single by Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) as Valpo stunned Chicago State 3-2 in walk-off fashion.
How It Happened
- Valpo (18-29) struck first as Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) doubled in a run in the top of the second. The Crusaders had a chance for more with runners at second and third and one away, but Chicago State starter Blake Kaplan wiggled out of the jam without further damage.
- In his first career start, Luke VanLanen (Pulaski, Wis. / Pulaski) began the day with four consecutive scoreless innings. Meanwhile, Kaplan did not allow any additional damage after the second-inning run, keeping it a one-run game.
- The Cougars (12-39) scratched out their first tally of the day in the fifth when Reggie Brock, Jr. doubled to left to plate a run. With runners at first and third and one away, Valpo turned a 3-6 double play to end the inning, but Brock scored before the tag at second to give Chicago State a 2-1 edge.
- Dean Youngblood came in from the bullpen to replace an injured Kaplan with two outs and runners at second and third for Valpo in the bottom of the fifth. Youngblood recorded a significant out, ending the inning and preserving a 2-1 lead.
- Chet Joslyn (Battle Creek, Mich.) entered in the sixth inning, and the game turned into a pitchers’ duel between a pair of left-handed relievers. Joslyn mowed down the first 10 Cougars he faced and opposed the minimum 12 batters in his four-inning outing, picking off the only player who singled against him.
- In the meantime, Youngblood matched Joslyn zero for zero, working out of a two on, no out jam in the sixth and stranding another runner in scoring position in the eighth. Youngblood went 3 1/3 shutout innings and yielded just three hits.
- Robert Gutierrez came on for the bottom of the ninth to try to protect a 2-1 Chicago State advantage. He retired the first two men he faced, putting the Cougars within one out of snapping Valpo’s 21-game winning streak in the head-to-head series that dates back to 2005.
- Brian Schmack inserted Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) as a pinch hitter in the No. 9 spot in the order. That maneuver paid significant dividends for the Valpo head coach, as Dent extended the game by ripping the seventh pitch he saw into center for a base hit. Dent, whose pinch hit was perhaps the most important moment of the day, had a 2-2 count, leaving Valpo down to its last strike.
- After Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean) took a four-pitch walk, Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) battled to a full count and eventually worked a base on balls. With the bases loaded and two down, Billinger stroked a clean single to left, plating a pair to prompt the Crusaders to pour out of the first-base dugout in celebratory fashion.
Inside the Game
- In addition to seeing seven pitches in his important ninth-inning plate appearance, Shaikin singled on the 11th pitch of a first-inning at-bat and worked an eight-pitch walk in the third.
- Shaikin was on base four times and went 2-for-3, his 18th multi-hit game of the year. Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) also chipped in two hits for his seventh multiple-hit output.
- VanLanen’s start was a strong one as he yielded just two runs on four hits in five frames. Joslyn’s relief work was masterful, keeping the Cougars scoreless on just one hit and no walks while striking out four for a well-earned win to boost his record to 1-1.
- This marked Valpo’s 22nd straight head-to-head win against Chicago State.
- After going just 1-11 in their first 12 one-run games, Valpo has garnered a pair of one-run victories over the last five days.
- This marks the second time this season the Crusaders have walked off with a win and first since Zack Leone’s three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th against Bradley on March 30.
The Crusaders will be back on the diamond on Thursday to host Indiana State for the opener of a three-game conference series. The first pitch is slated for 3 p.m. CT as the Crusaders clash with the Sycamores. The game can be heard on WVUR, 95.1 FM Valparaiso and links to live audio and stats will be available.