The Valparaiso University baseball team slugged three home runs on the way to an 11-1, seven-inning victory over Western Michigan on Tuesday afternoon at Emory G. Bauer Field. Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]), Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) and Jeremy Drudge (Plymouth, Ind. / Plymouth) all went yard in a game that saw Valpo outhit the Broncos 12-3. Freshman starting pitcher Keegan Bates (Plainfield, Ill. / Plainfield North) turned in six quality innings to garner the victory.
How It Happened
- The day started off on a rough note as Cooper Marshall cracked a solo homer to center in the top of the first to put Western Michigan (11-22) ahead 1-0. However, from that point forward, just about everything went right for Valpo.
- A quick response came courtesy of Billinger in the bottom of the first, when he belted a two-run blast to center to put Valpo ahead 2-1.
- Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean) turned in a hustle double to right center that drove in a pair in the second, knocking the Western Michigan starter out of the game after just 1 2/3 innings.
- The score remained 4-1 until the fifth, when Drudge ripped a solo blast to right.
- Shaikin joined the home-run barrage in the sixth with a solo shot of his own to make it 6-1.
- Steven Fitzsimmons (Golden Valley, Minn. / Robbinsdale Cooper) added a two-run single in the sixth before a three-spot for Valpo in the bottom of the seventh ended the game. Billinger lifted a sacrifice fly, then Louie Baker (Gold Coast, Australia / Scottsdale CC) stroked a game-ending single that drove in a pair.
- The offense enjoyed a great day, but Valpo was in position to utilize the 10-run rule thanks tothe left arm of Bates. The freshman southpaw scattered three hits while pitching to contact (one walk, one strikeout) over six quality innings. He gave way to Jarrett Hammel (Brook, Ind. / South Newton [Saint Joseph’s College]) in the seventh, who worked a scoreless frame.
Inside the Game
- Billinger’s home run briefly moved him into a tie for the team lead with six before Shaikin reclaimed club leadership with his seventh. Shaikin has hit four home runs in the last five games.
- That power surge has helped Shaikin lift his career home run total to 20. The senior also recently surpassed 100 career RBIs. He needs two more homers to enter the Top 5 in program history.
- Dawson collected three hits, drove in two, worked a walk and scored two runs in another strong day at the dish. The senior entered the Top 10 in program history in career runs scored on Tuesday as he now has 128, which ranks 10th. He has scored the most career runs by any Valpo player since Spencer Mahoney graduated in 2015 with 147.
- Drudge’s home run was the first of his collegiate career.
- Bates (1-2) picked up his first collegiate victory while yielding just the one run on the first-inning home run.
- The 11 runs marked a season high for Valpo as Tuesday was the team’s highest single-game run total since beating Dallas Baptist 13-10 in the first round of last year’s MVC Tournament.
- Valpo pitching permitted a season-low three hits. That was the fewest hits allowed in a game by Valpo pitching since May 10, 2015 when Ryan Fritze and Trevor Haas combined on a three-hit shutout of Youngstown State.
Valpo (7-24) will return to the diamond for a three-game nonconference series that begins on Friday night at SIU Edwardsville. The game will get going at 6 p.m. with links to live audio and stats available on ValpoAthletics.com.