The Valparaiso University baseball team simply wouldn’t go away on Thursday night and into the early hours of Friday morning in a winners’ bracket second-round Missouri Valley Conference Tournament game at Horner Ballpark in Dallas. Every time Bradley appeared to open the game up, the Crusaders had a response, but in the end the Braves prevailed 11-9 when the Crusaders stranded the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Bradley finds itself one victory from the MVC championship game, while the Crusaders are forced into a quick turnaround for an elimination rematch with DBU on Friday afternoon.
How It Happened
- In a game that didn’t begin until 10:08 p.m. CT due to earlier tournament games running long, the Crusaders (19-33) picked up right where they left off following Wednesday’s win over DBU. Their first four batters reached base in the bottom of the first inning. A Giovanni Garbella (San Diego, Calif. / Cathedral Catholic) double scored two, but Valpo had men at second and third with nobody out and didn’t do any further damage.
- Bradley (32-17) answered immediately with a three-run second inning to take a 3-2 lead. Dan Bolt clubbed a two-run homer to tie the game before Luke Shadid’s run-scoring triple put the Braves in front. Bradley hit for the team cycle in the inning.
- The top of the second ended with a leaping catch at the wall in deep right by Garbella, an impressive play that appeared to rob Luke Mangieri of a home run.
- Valpo senior starter Wes Gordon (Gurnee, Ill. / Warren [Lake County]) settled down by retiring the side in order in the third, but Bolt struck again in the fourth with his second two-run homer of the day to expand the lead to 5-2.
- Derek Bangert clubbed a two-run homer in the fifth, ending the day for Gordon. The Braves owned a 7-2 lead behind three home runs.
- Valpo sent nine men to the plate in the fifth inning, plating four runs, all coming after two were out. Zack Leone (Pelham Manor, N.Y. / Fordham Prep [Susquehanna]) had an RBI single, Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) rolled a run-scoring hit to shortstop and Christian Barczi (Naperville, Ill. / Naperville North) roped a two-run knock up the middle on the first pitch he saw.
- Andrew Ivelia’s two-out single in the top of the sixth drove in a run, but a second runner tried to score on the play and was cut down as Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) gunned a two-hop strike to the catcher Kapers for the final out of the inning. The run expanded Bradley’s lead to 8-6.
- Bradley tacked on three more against the Valpo bullpen in the top of the seventh, but the Crusaders had a response in the bottom of the inning. Kapers crushed a two-run home run – long gone to left – to make it 11-8.
- Another blast helped Valpo move a step closer in the bottom of the eighth, when a Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) moon shot down the left-field line cut the lead to 11-9.
- Fans of both teams saw their blood-pressure levels skyrocket in the bottom of the ninth. Two walks and a hit batter allowed Valpo to load the bases with one away, placing the potential tying run at second and the winning run at first. However, the Braves recorded the final two outs to escape with the 11-9 win.
Inside the Game
- Kapers’ home run was his fourth of the season and his first since April 13 against Michigan State.
- Kapers had his second straight multi-hit game. He’s 4-for-9 with four RBIs in the tournament.
- Shaikin’s dinger allowed him to climb back into sole possession of the team lead in home runs with nine. That marked the 13th home run of his career. Shaikin had two hits, scored three runs and reached base four times.
- Leone collected three hits, his seventh game this season with three hits or more and first since April 25 at Notre Dame.
- Billinger’s outfield assist was his seventh of the season. He has seven of Valpo’s 10 outfield assists this year.
- The Crusaders have 22 runs on 29 hits in the first two games of the conference tournament.
- Chet Joslyn (Battle Creek, Mich. / Lakeview) was strong out of the Valpo bullpen, working three scoreless innings and permitting just one hit. He struck out five.
- Bradley starter Brooks Gosswein made his second start of the season, allowing two runs on four hits in four innings. Alex Gray improved to 7-0 by gaining the win in relief after 3 1/3 innings of seven-run, seven-hit ball. Bobby Johnson nailed down his fifth save.
- Gordon (2-7) was hit with the defeat. He was charged with seven runs on 10 hits but issued no walks over four frames.
The Crusaders will look to extend their head-to-head winning streak with Dallas Baptist to three on Friday afternoon, a game that starts at 12:30 p.m. The first pitch of Friday’s game is just over 11 hours after the final out of Saturday night’s game was recorded. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ with Art Hains (play-by-play) and Brian Petrotta (color commentary) on the call. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available.