Valparaiso, Ind. - Senior Adam Knobel became Valpo's all-time saves leader as the Crusaders defeated Centenary 4-2 in the first game of a Mid-Continent Conference doubleheader. The Gents defeated Valpo 4-2 in the nightcap, setting up a decisive twinbill on Sunday to determine whether Valpo (9-11 Mid-Con) or Centenary (11-11) earns the fourth and final spot in the Mid-Con Tournament.
Valpo must sweep Sunday's doubleheader against Centenary in order to edge the Gents for the final tournament spot. The Mid-Con Tournament will be played May 26-28 at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.
Kevin Perri went 2-for-4 in the opener, which included a two-run homer - his third of the season - in the second inning.
Knobel, who earned his record 14th career save. preserved the victory for Harvey Yergin (5-6). A sophomore righthander, Yergin pitched eight strong innings, allowing two earned runs and seven hits. He struck out five and walked one.
Yergin received all the runs he needed in the second inning when the Crusaders plated four unearned tallies. Tyler Lowell, who had two hits, led off the frame with a single and advanced to second on an error by the shortstop. After Jeff Rickert moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt, John Giusti hit an RBI groundout. Brian Rzepka followed with an RBI single to center field and Perri hit a towering home run over the left field fence to give Valpo a 4-0 lead.
Centenary pushed a run across in the fourth when Chris Wilson stole second and David Kiefer stole home on the same play.
The Gents trimmed their deficit to 4-2 in the eighth when Wilson delivered an RBI single to right to score Tim Ryan, who had doubled. Yergin escaped the jam by inducing Justin Darr to ground out to Rickert at third base.
Knobel, who has a league-leading eight saves, allowed one hit and struck out two batters in the ninth to eclipse the all-time saves mark.
In the nightcap, Centenary broke a 1-1 tie with three runs in the sixth inning, all with two outs. Darr produced the go-ahead run with a single. Alex Maldanado followed with an RBI single and Jonathan Ahearn added another RBI single to extend the Gents lead to 4-1.
Valpo, which brought the tying run to the plate in the seventh, cut the Centenary lead to 4-2 on Ryan Manthei's ringing RBI double down the right field line, scoring pinch runner Eric Brauer. Will Kaage (7-3) recorded a strikeout to end the game.
The Gents took a 1-0 lead in the first on consecutive doubles by Ryan and Kiefer. Valpo (20-30) tied the contest in the second when Colin Reynolds hammered a double down the right field line and scored on Josh Piazza's single to right center.
Nick Mazzone (2-3) suffered the loss, allowing four earned runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. The sophomore southpaw fanned four and issued one walk. Kaage went the distance, yielding two earned runs and six hits. The righthander struck out six and walked one.
Prior to the game, Valpo seniors Brauer and Knobel, along with their parents, were recognized on Senior Day.
Sunday's twinbill between Valpo and Centenary (24-26) at Emory G. Bauer Field begins at noon.