Jon Gulbransen (Appleton, Wis./Fox Valley Lutheran H.S.) tossed eight shutout innings of two-hit baseball in the opener, and Valparaiso scored eight times in the first five innings of game two on the way to a doubleheader sweep of Arkansas-Little Rock, 2-0 and 10-8, on Sunday afternoon at Gary Hogan Field in Little Rock, Ark. to take two out of three games in the weekend series.
Gulbransen (2-0) fanned eight, including five in the first three innings, and allowed just a pair of singles to Tyson Parks, one in the second and one in the seventh, to earn his second victory of the season. He walked just one hitter in the eighth inning while Jarad Miller (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll H.S.) pitched a one-two-three ninth to earn his second save of the season and 11th of his career.
“He was just awesome today,” head coach Tracy Woodson said. “He had three pitches going and kept their hitters off balance. He put the ball where he wanted, when he wanted.”
All of Valpo’s offense came in the eighth inning as Dan DeBruin (Combined locks, Wis./Kimberly H.S.) led off with a triple. Following a walk to Damon McCormick (Louisville, Ky./Saint Xavier H.S.), an error on the Trojans’ shortstop allowed DeBruin to score the first run of the game. A one-out single by Kyle Muhlsteff (Yorba Linda, Calif./Esperanza H.S.) plated McCormick with an insurance run, as the Crusader hurlers would do the rest.
Josh Wallace (Bellefountaine, Ohio/Bellefountaine H.S.) had two hits for the Crusaders as Valpo managed just five in the pitcher’s dual.
UALR starter Adam Champion matched Gulbransen early, striking out eight of the first 11 Crusaders on his way to nine strikeouts on the day. He worked 5.2 innings, allowing just two hits before Gavin Gray relieved him with two on and two out in the sixth inning. Gray ended that inning, but proceeded to give up the two runs in the eighth to suffer the loss (0-2).
Valpo’s offense got going in the first of game two. McCormick and Ryan O’Gara (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Buffalo Grove H.S.) both singled with one out, and after advancing 90 feet following a groundout, both scored on a single through the left side by Matt Lenski (Milwaukee, Wis./Marquette University H.S.).
The Crusaders extended the lead to 5-0 in the fourth as Lenski and Kyle Gaedele (Arlington Heights, Ill./Rolling Meadows H.S.) singled to lead off the inning. Steven Scoby (Delton, Mich./Kellogg H.S.) plated Lenski with a double to right and Ryan Shober (Inverness, Ill./Fremd H.S.) squeezed home Gaedele. DeBruin added a run-scoring double to score Scoby with the final run of the inning.
In the bottom of the inning Arkansas-Little Rock got on the scoreboard, taking advantage of a passed ball to plate two on singles by Nate Brown and Brad Swiderski.
Valpo’s lead was increased to 8-2 in the fifth as the Brown and Gold took advantage following three Trojan walks. Muhlsteff plated all three with a double to the gap in right-center.
A two-run double by Tim Emmons cut Valpo’s lead to four in the sixth, but the Crusaders took advantage of an UALR error in the seventh to add an unearned run.
The Trojans cut Valpo’s lead to 9-8 in the seventh with four runs, including two off of a triple by Parks. He tried to tie the game by scoring on a foul fly out, but DeBruin gunned him down at the plate.
Valpo added another unearned run courtesy of an error in the eighth for the final insurance tally.
Bryce Shafer (Wabash, Ind./Northfield H.S.) worked 5.2 innings to get the win (2-0) for the Cruusaders, allowing just three earned runs and eight hits while striking out nine. Steve Godawa (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Buffalo Grove H.S.) got out of the seventh inning jam for the Crusaders and earned the save (2) working the final 2.1 innings, striking out four, including the side in the ninth.
Sean Potter (1-1) suffered the loss for Arkansas-Little Rock (4-4), going just 3.2 innings and allowing five runs and eight hits.
“It feels good to get the sweep and to get off to the start we have,” Woodson added. “Our guys are excited and it gives us confidence. The back end of our bullpen is pretty good. We know our trip is going to get tougher though, starting on Tuesday.”
Valpo (4-1) will head to Fayetteville, Ark. on Tuesday afternoon to battle the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first game of a two-game midweek series. First pitch is set for 3:05 p.m.