Valparaiso jumped out to a 5-0 lead after two innings, but Notre Dame rallied, scoring twice in the bottom of the seventh, and defeated the Crusaders 8-6 on Tuesday evening in Notre Dame, Ind.
The Crusaders wasted little time jumping on the scoreboard. Dan DeBruin (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly H.S.) and Matt Lenski (Milwaukee, Wis./Marquette University H.S.) had back-to-back singles up the middle to lead off the game. A walk to Zach Rodeghero (New Lenox, Ill./Providence Catholic H.S.) loaded the bases and DeBruin scored on a passed ball. An infield single by Josh Wallace (Bellefontaine, Ohio/Bellefontaine H.S.) plated Lenski and a double play groundout scored Rodeghero to give Valpo a 3-0 lead before taking the field.
Valpo added on to the lead in the second. A one-out double by Jon Gulbransen (Appleton, Wis./Fox Valley Lutheran H.S.) and a two-out walk to DeBruin set the Crusaders up in scoring position. Lenski drove home Gulbransen with a bounding ball through the leftside and Rodeghero added a single to right to score DeBruin for the second time on the day. Rodeghero’s single chased Notre Dame starter Brian Dupra after just 1.2 innings of work and Valpo holding a 5-0 advantage.
“We don’t score first very often,” head coach Tracy Woodson said. “We swung the bats well and did the little things. We just need to be able to add to the lead once we get it.”
Notre Dame cut into the Crusader lead in the bottom of the fourth innings as Evan Sharpley took advantage of a strong wind out to leftfield, just clearing the fence for a two-run homer off of John Snelten (Ingleside, Ill./Antioch H.S.). The Fighting Irish then put two more runners on in the inning with just one out before the redshirt-junior induced his second double play ball of the game, keeping Valpo’s lead at 5-2 through four.
Snelten worked into the sixth inning for his longest outing since 2006 before giving way to Jay Clites (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer H.S.) with runners on first and third and one out. A squeeze bunt by Ross Gaston scored A.J. Pollack and two batters later Sean Gaston had a two-run pinch hit double to the left-centerfield gap to tie the game at five. One pitch later, Greg Sherry doubled down the rightfield line and the Fighting Irish led 6-5.
“We’re trying to stretch Snelten out,” said Woodson. “He pitched well. He had a good changeup today.”
Snelten finished with a no decision, allowing four runs and eight hits in his 5.1 innings of work while striking out two. He did not walk a batter.
Valpo tied the game in the seventh as DeBruin led off the inning with a walk and moved to second on a single by Rodeghero, his third hit on the afternoon. Wallace followed with a RBI single back through the box to tie the game, scoring DeBruin for the third time on the day.
Pollack put Notre Dame back on top in the bottom of the seventh with a homerun down the leftfield line that went over the top of the foul pole. Evan Sharply doubled and Jeremy Barnes followed with a single through the hole on the leftside to increase the Fighting Irish lead to 8-6.
Tony Langford (2-0) kept Valpo off of the scoreboard in the eighth to earn the victory and Kyle Weiland earned the save pitching a 1-2-3 ninth. Steve Godawa (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Buffalo Grove H.S.) suffered the loss (2-2) for the Crusaders.
Rodeghero led the Crusader offense going 3-for-4 while Lenski and Wallace each had two hits. Pollack and Sharpley each went 3-for-4 for Notre Dame (17-9-1).
“I’m proud of our guys. We played well today,” concluded Woodson.
Valparaiso (8-21) will begin a nine-game homestand on Wednesday afternoon hosting Northern Illinois. First pitch against the Huskies is set for 3 p.m. at Emory G. Bauer Field.