Valparaiso rallied from a 4-0 deficit entering the eighth inning, sending 11 batters to the plate while scoring seven times as the Crusaders opened their three-game weekend series against Milwaukee with a 7-6 victory at Henry Aaron Field in Milwaukee, Wis.
Three straight singles to start the inning began the comeback . John Giusti (Coventry, R.I./Coventry H.S.) and Zach Rodeghero (New Lenox, Ill./Providence Catholic H.S.) were each aboard when Josh Wallace (Bellefontaine, Ohio/Bellefontaine H.S.) drove the first run home with a single up the middle. Matt Lenski (Milwaukee, Wis./Marquette University H.S.) walked to load the bases and a fielding error scored two runs. Another Panther error loaded the bases and a walk to Brett Bivens (Battle Creek, Mich./Lakeview H.S.) tied the game at four.
A Dan DeBruin (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly H.S.) double down the rightfield line plated two more runners, putting the Brown and Gold on top for the first time. A bunt by Giusti on his second trip to the plate in the inning added the final run, giving Valpo a three-run advantage, 7-4.
“DeBruin hit a rope with the bases loaded in the seventh that turned into a double play,” head coach Tracy Woodson said. “He did a great job coming back in the eighth with the big double to give us the lead.”
Milwaukee threatened in the ninth against Valpo closer Jarad Miller (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll H.S.), who earned his sixth save of the season. A single and an error put runners on second and third with no one out, and back-to-back ground outs plated the two runs. Miller then induced a fly out by Shawn Wozniak to end the game.
The Panthers struck first in the second with a pair of unearned runs and added another unearned tally in the fourth on a wild pitch. A double by Ben Long in the sixth made the advantage 4-0 before the Crusaders rallied.
“Our guys didn’t give up today and that helped us get this win,” said Woodson. “Our bullpen did a solid job yet again.”
Jay Clites (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer H.S.) earned the victory (1-2) in relief for Valpo while Craig Meier suffered the loss (3-3) for Milwaukee, allowing two unearned runs in the seventh.
DeBruin, Rodeghero, and Lenski paced Valpo’s offensive attack with two hits each and Rodeghero extended his hitting streak to 22 straight games. Doug Dekoning went 3-for-4 for Milwaukee.
Valparaiso (15-27, 6-8 Horizon) and Milwaukee (15-28, 6-11) will wrap up their weekend series in Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon with a twinbill beginning at noon.