Valparaiso, Ind. - Valpo pounded out 19 hits to defeat Centenary 15-4 in the nightcap, but Centenary won the opener 10-1 to claim the fourth and final spot in this week's Mid-Con Tournament. Brian Rzepka had five hits and four RBIs, while John Giusti had five hits, including a 4-for-4 performance in the second game. Senior Adam Knobel struck out nine in five shutout innings and senior Eric Brauer belted a long solo homer in his only career at bat.
Valpo finished the season at 21-31 overall, 10-12 Mid-Con. Entering the twinbill, Valpo needed to win both games to earn a berth in the Mid-Con Tournament.
Centenary (25-27, 12-12) scored four in the third inning to take a 5-0 lead in the opener. The Gents, who had 13 hits, scored at least one run in seven of the nine frames, including one run in each of the last five.
Chris Wilson went 3-for-5 with three RBIs, while David Kiefer and Jonathan Ahearn each added two hits and two RBIs.
Valpo's lone run came on starter David McElroy's first pitch when Rzepka hammered a solo homer over the right field wall. Rzepka and Matt Augustine had two hits each in the opener.
McElroy (7-2) pitched eight strong innings, allowing one run and seven hits. The righthander recorded six strikeouts and issued three walks. Dallas Cawiezell (1-2), the first of five Valpo pitchers, took the loss, allowing four earned runs and five hits in 2 1/3 innings.
Valpo exploded out of the gate in the nightcap, scoring eight times in the first inning on eight hits as the Crusaders sent 12 batters to the plate. Mike Arensdorff brought home the first run with a single to right field. Jon Rupno and Rzepka had two-run singles, while Josh Piazza and Kevin Perri each belted RBI doubles and Kevin Kutansky added a sacrifice fly during the uprising.
While the Crusaders were adding to their lead by scoring one run in each of the second, third and fourth innings, Knobel was holding the Gents' offense at bay. Valpo's all-time saves leader, Knobel (2-1) limited Centenary to five hits, while fanning a career high nine and walking two. The start was just the fourth of Knobel's 75 career appearances.
After Centenary scored three in the sixth, Valpo tacked on four in the bottom of the frame. Brauer, who was exclusively a pitcher throughout his five years with the Crusaders, received his first career at bat as a pinch-hitter in the sixth. After working a 3-0 count, the 6'6", 220-pounder launched a long home run over the left center field fence.
Giusti (RBI), Rzepka, Perri (RBI) and Arensdorff (RBI double) had consecutive hits to extend the lead to 15-3 before the Gents plated one in the seventh for the final score.
Jonathan Christian (2-7), the first of five Centenary hurlers, pitched 1/3 of an inning, allowing six runs on five hits.
Giusti went 4-for-4 with two RBIs, while Rzepka had three hits and three RBIs and Rupno had two hits and three RBIs in the second game. Perri added three hits and two RBIs and Arensdorff had two hits and two RBIs in the victory.
Arensdorff, a sophomore, led Valpo in all of the triple crown categories. The first baseman batted .382 with four homers and 43 RBIs.
The Mid-Con Tournament will be played May 26-28 at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.