Valparaiso bounced back from a game one loss to Wright State on Saturday afternoon and won the night cap of the doubleheader to remain one-half game in front of the Raiders in the Horizon League race. Wright State won the opener 10-4 at Nischwitz Stadium in Dayton, Ohio before the Crusaders took game two 6-2.
“We swung the bats really well both games today,” said head coach Tracy Woodson as Valpo finished the day with 23 hits in the two games.
Damon McCormick (Louisville, Ky./Saint Xavier H.S.) went the distance in game two for his third complete game of the season, earning the victory (5-5) allowing two runs and eight hits despite having to sit through a 28-minute rain delay in the middle of his outing. He struck out three and walked three for the Crusaders, helping Valpo bounce back after a game one loss.
“Damon’s performance was huge for us,” Woodson said. “He’s a gamer. He came back out after the rain delay and continued to pitch well, saving our bullpen for the series finale tomorrow if needed.”
Valpo jumped on top in the third inning as Andrew Bain (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor H.S.) singled and stole second before scoring on a two-out hit by Steven Scoby (Delton, Mich./Delton Kellogg H.S.).
The Raiders answered in the bottom of the inning as Jake Hibberd scored on a two-out double by Corey Davis.
The game remained tied into the middle of the fifth when the rains came, forcing the short delay. After the break, Wright State took the lead. Back-to-back singles by Dan Marsh and Hibbard to start the inning put two men on. After a sacrifice bunt, Marsh scored on a ground out by Davis, who had both of the Raider RBIs in the game.
Wright State took the 2-1 lead into the seventh when Valpo finally broke through against Raider starter Michael Woytek. Bobby Martin (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge H.S.) led off with a single and moved up on a sacrifice bunt. Michael Morman (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic H.S.) tied the game with a one-out double to center and advanced to third on a wild pitch as Bain walked. The walk marked the end of the day for Woytek, who was relieved by Taylor Braun.
Braun was greeted by Kyle Gaedele (Arlington Heights, Ill./Rolling Meadows H.S.), who launched his team-leading sixth home run of the season deep over the left field wall, just to the left of the 377-foot mark, giving Valpo a 5-2 advantage.
“Gaedele’s homer was huge,” Woodson said. “It gave McCormick a lead to work with.”
Valpo took the three-run lead into the ninth when the Crusaders added an insurance run. Gaedele led off with a single and Scoby was hit by a pitch. After a sacrifice bunt, Will Hagel (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect H.S.) delivered a sacrifice fly which gave the Brown and Gold its final margin of victory.
Morman went 3-for-4 in game two while Martin, Hagel, and Gaedele each had two hits as part of a 13-hit attack for the Crusaders. Marsh and Hibberd each had two hits for Wright State.
Woytek suffered the loss (6-3) in the night cap, pitching 6.1 innings and allowing four runs on eight hits.
The Crusaders opened game one with a quick lead as well, but were unable to hang on.
Gaedele led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a single by Chris Manning (Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro H.S.). Hagel followed with a RBI double and scored himself two batters later on a hit by Martin, giving the Crusaders a 3-0 lead.
Wright State tied the game in the third on five straight hits, and could have taken the lead but Manning threw Hibberd out at the plate for the inning’s first out. Jon Gulbransen (Appleton, Wis./Fox Valley Lutheran H.S.) got out of the jam without further damage.
Martin helped the Crusaders retake the lead in the fourth with a one-out single. After Corey Thibault (Tustin, Calif./Foothill H.S.) beat out a bunt for a single, Morman delivered a run-scoring single into centerfield.
Ryan Ashe tied the game for Wright State in the bottom of the fifth with a two-out RBI single. The Raiders then took the lead for good in the sixth with four unearned runs. Three straight two-out hits, a single by Hibberd and back-to-back doubles by Tristan Moore and Davis, gave the hosts an 8-4 advantage.
“We have to make plays,” Woodson said. “They’re going to bunt and put pressure on us and we knew it. The error in the inning on the bunt really hurt us.”
Wright State added another run in the seventh on a double by Zach Taylor and added the final run in the eighth on a triple off the bat of Kyle Mossbarger.
Valpo managed just one baserunner over the final three innings, a lead-off walk by Hagel, who was promptly erased on a double play.
Casey Henn went the distance for the win (5-3) for Wright State, allowing 10 hits and four runs while striking out four and walking just one. Gulbransen suffered the loss (5-6) for the Crusaders, giving up nine runs, five of which were earned, and 17 hits in 6.1 innings. He did not walk any Raiders and struck out two.
Hagel, Martin, and Morman each had two hits for the Crusaders. Hagel and Martin finished the day with four hits each while Morman was 5-for-8 with two runs and two runs batted in.
Moore went 4-for-5 for the Raiders while Hibberd drove home three runs in the opener.
Valparaiso (21-25, 13-5 Horizon) and Wright State (29-14, 12-5) will wrap up the three-game weekend series on Mother’s Day with a single game beginning at 12 p.m. CDT.
“We have a big opportunity tomorrow to either give ourselves a little room at the top or else see the league race bunch up even more,” Woodson concluded. “We’ll be ready to go out and battle once again.”