Heroes came in all forms for the Valparaiso University baseball team on Friday evening at Emory G. Bauer Field.
After having just two at-bats since the end of March prior to Friday’s game, redshirt freshman Kevin Barry (Bartlett, Ill. / South Elgin) was perhaps the biggest hero of all in a 5-4, 14-inning win over Southern Illinois. Barry’s pinch-hit walk allowed him to score the tying run in the ninth, then he ended the four-hour marathon with a walk-off single in the bottom of the 14th.
But the game would have never seen the 14th if it weren’t for the right arm of Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland), who pitched the game of his life with six dominant relief innings in which he did not allow a hit or run and struck out eight.
How It Happened
- The scoring started in the opening inning as Valpo capitalized on a Southern Illinois error to score twice. Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) lifted a sacrifice fly before Steven Fitzsimmons (Golden Valley, Minn. / Robbinsdale Cooper) provided a run-scoring infield single.
- Southern Illinois got a run back in the third, then eventually tied the game in the sixth against starter Jon Tieman (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge) on a solo homer by Ian Walters.
- Valpo took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth when Brent Jones (Ankeny, Iowa / Ankeny Centennial [Iowa Central]) drew a bases-loaded walk. It stayed 3-2 in favor of the hosts until the top of the eighth, when Southern Illinois took the lead with two runs on three hits against Montana Quigley (Lake Forest, Calif. / El Toro).
- The Salukis had a chance to tack on against Rhodehouse in the top of the ninth after two walks a sacrifice bunt, but they walked away empty handed. Southern Illinois ran into a caught stealing in a first-and-third situation for the second time in the game to aid Valpo in squashing the rally.
- With Valpo down 4-3, Barry led off the bottom of the ninth with a pinch-hit walk. Patrick Donohue (Arlington Heights, Ill. / Prospect) placed a beauty of a bunt down the first-base line for a single, then Jake Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) laid down a sac bunt to move the men to second and third. Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) grounded out to second base to drive in a run and tie the game at four, but Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) lined out sharply to left to leave the potential winning run stranded at third and send the game to extras.
- From there, it was the Easton Rhodehouse show. The Valpo junior went six scoreless frames and retired the side in order in the 10th, 11th, 13th and 14th. The Saluki bullpen was just as good through the first four extra frames. Barry nearly won it in the 12th, but the SIU second baseman made a game-saving play on a pop fly to shallow right with two outs and the winning run at third.
- Valpo’s game-winning at-bat in the bottom of the 14th started with a single by Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean). Fitzsimmons had a one-out single, Dawson moved to third on a wild pitch and Jones grounded out to a drawn-in second baseman with Dawson staying at third. Then came Barry’s two-out base knock that trickled through the right side of the infield, sending Valpo into a state of jubilation.
Inside the Game
- This was Valpo’s second extra-inning game of the season and first since Feb. 24, a 7-6 loss at Arkansas State in 11 innings. The four-hour, 14-inning funfest was Valpo’s longest game in terms of innings since April 17, 2012, a 2-1 defeat at Indiana State that required 16 frames. That game against the Sycamores was Valpo’s second contest of 15 or more innings in a 12-day span as the team had topped UIC 8-7 in 15 in Chicago on April 5, 2012.
- Friday was Valpo’s longest game in terms of time of game since the team enjoyed four hours, 29 minutes of excitement in an 8-7, 13-inning win over Western Michigan on May 5, 2015.
- Friday also tied for Valpo’s longest home game on record in terms of innings, matching a 4-3 win over Chicago State on May 14, 2006 and a 2-1 loss to Indiana Central on April 15, 1978.
- Barry’s RBI was his first since March 24 and fourth of the season.
- Quigley saw his scoreless innings streak that had reached 9 2/3 entering the game come to an end, but Rhodehouse has now worked 10 consecutive scoreless innings.
- Rhodehouse’s six-inning, eight-strikeout, 85-pitch effort allowed him to set career highs in each of the three aforementioned areas. His previous longest outing came over four innings on May 14, 2017 vs. UIC. His previous career watermark in strikeouts also came in that appearance as he fanned seven Flames on his way to an eventual Horizon League Pitcher of the Week honor. His previous career high for pitches thrown was 60 in two innings on March 7, 2018 at UC Riverside.
- After finishing his sophomore season with a 9.68 ERA, Rhodehouse (2-2) is at 3.00 over 33 innings as a junior.
- Not to be completely overshadowed by his classmate’s stellar showing was Tieman, who was initially in line for the win when he left after seven innings. The junior righty got no decision despite allowing just three hits and two runs (one earned) over seven frames. He struck out five.
- Andrean graduate Matt DeSomer (0-1) took the loss for Southern Illinois after allowing one run in 3 2/3 innings.
- Fitzsimmons enjoyed his third game this season with three hits or more by going 3-for-6 to lead the offense.
- Shaikin drew two walks on Friday, becoming the fourth player in program history to reach the 100-walk milestone for his career.
Valpo (11-32, 4-12) and Southern Illinois (22-23, 4-12) will play Game 2 in the series on Saturday at 1 p.m. Links to live audio and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.