Valparaiso, Ind. - North Dakota State forced Valpo to play comeback baseball in both games and the Bison held on to sweep a doubleheader from the Crusaders by scores of 10-9 and 5-4. Brian Rzepka went 2-for-5 with three RBIs in the opener and Kevin Kutansky had a hit and an RBI in each game for Valpo.
Valpo, which scored three in the seventh inning of the first game to cut NDSU's lead to 10-9, had the tying run on third with two outs. Kutansky's ground ball to the right side nearly went through the infield, but second baseman Ryan Langlais ranged to his left and threw out Kutansky from the edge of the outfield to end the game.
In the opener, Valpo (19-28) grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Ryan Manthei's RBI single.
NDSU (8-38-1) erupted for five runs in the fourth, highlighted by Gavin Hofer's grand slam over the right field fence. The Bison increased its lead to 8-1 in the fifth on Reid Arnold's three-run homer to left field.
A five-run fifth pulled Valpo within 8-6. Kutansky began the comeback with an RBI triple. Ryan Manthei had an RBI groundout and Jon Rupno added an RBI single. Rzepka plated the fifth and sixth runs with a single to center field.
In the sixth, NDSU tacked on two insurance runs on Matt Mossey's two-run single to left.
Valpo's three-run rally in the seventh included John Giusti's third bases-loaded hit-by-pitch in two days. A freshman, Giusti was hit by five pitches in the four-game series. Rzepka's fielder's choice groundout scored Rupno and Jeff Rickert scored on a wild pitch.
Terry Tchida (1-5) allowed five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings for the win and Neil Wagner escaped the seventh-inning jam to record his second save.
Matt Gillikin (2-4) suffered the loss, allowing nine earned runs on eight hits. The righthander struck out three and walked three.
In the nightcap, NDSU scored four in the first and one in the second to take a 5-0 lead. Kole Zimmerman's two-run triple and Hofer's RBI double were the big hits in the first. Tim Erickson's RBI single produced the second-inning tally.
Bison starter Jay Mitchell held Valpo hitless until the fourth when Matt Augustine singled to left. The Crusaders trimmed their deficit to 5-1 earlier in the frame when Kevin Perri scored on a wild pitch after drawing a walk, stealing second and advancing to third on a wild pitch.
The Crusader bats ignited a three-run sixth and put the tying run in scoring position with two outs. Kutansky's RBI double scored Perri, who was hit by a pitch. Mike Arensdorff, who had singled, scored on a wild pitch and Colin Reynolds belted an RBI double to right center.
Shane Bushland retired the Crusaders in order in the seventh to earn his first save. Mitchell (1-6) earned the victory, allowing four runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings. He fanned four and walked one.
Eric Brauer (3-5) took the loss, yielding five runs in 1 2/3 innings. Jay Clites limited the Bison to one hit over 5 1/3 innings of relief. The freshman lefty struck out three and did not issue a walk.
Valpo travels to Indianapolis to play Butler on Tuesday beginning at 3 p.m. The Crusaders host Centenary in a pivotal four-game Mid-Continent Conference series next Saturday and Sunday. Both doubleheaders begin at noon each day. Valpo and Centenary are lodged in a close race for the fourth and final spot in the Mid-Con Tournament.