Valparaiso saw its 2007 season come to a close on Friday afternoon at the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament in Macomb, Ill., dropping a pair of contests. In the opener, the Crusaders fell 4-2 to Oral Roberts before Centenary eliminated the Crusaders by the score of 6-1.
The afternoon's elimination game against Centenary started as a pitcher's dual between Valpo's Matt Evans (Brighton, Mich./Brighton H.S.) and the Gents' Will Kaage. Both hurlers allowed just two hits each over the first four innings.
Centenary struck first in the third inning. With the bases loaded and one out, an error on a double play ball put the Gents on top 1-0. Justin Darr then followed with a two-run single up the middle, increasing the lead to three. Coming out of the bullpen, Patrick Paulus (Cottage Grove, Wis./Monona Grove H.S.) got a strikeout, caught stealing double play to end the inning.
The Crusaders got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth. With the bases loaded, a double play groundout plated Michael Arensdorff (Eldridge, Iowa/North Scott H.S.). The fifth-year senior tied Valparaiso's school record with his 158th career run scored.
A two-out single to rightfield by Darr in the top of the seventh drove home Teddy Saenz for the second time on the day, putting the Gents back on top by three. Nate Santiago added two more runs for Centenary in the eighth, singling down the rightfield line, past a drawn in infield.
Will Kaage (4-6) earned the win, working five innings, allowing five hits and one run. Dakota Robinson earned his fourth save, allowing just one hit over the final four innings.
Evans (3-3) suffered the loss for the Crusaders, allowing two earned runs in 4.1 innings. Jason Brunelli (Greenfield, Wis./Greenfield H.S.) had two hits for the Crusaders to lead the offense.
In the day's first game against Oral Roberts, Nick Mazzone (Carol Stream, Ill./Glenbard North H.S.) was stellar for the Crusaders over the first five innings, scattering just three hits in the first half of the game.
Valpo struck first in the game, scoring a pair of runs in the fourth inning. Jeff Rickert (Hamilton, Ohio/Fairfield H.S.) led off the inning striking out, but reached on a pass ball by the catcher. A walk to Arensdorff put two runners on. With two outs, Brunelli tripled to the left-centerfield gap to drive home Rickert and Zach Rodeghero (New Lenox, Ill./Providence Catholic H.S.), who was aboard following a runner's interference call.
Oral Roberts rallied with three runs in the seventh. With runners on second and third, Tyler Warmerdam singled home one and Chad Rothford followed with another RBI single to tie the game. With the bases loaded and one out, Elliott Gibbs (Munster, Ind./Munster H.S.) came on and got Pat Warfle to ground into a RBI fielder's choice before striking out Stephen Pearson to end the inning. The Golden Eagles then took a 3-2 lead into the late innings.
The Golden Eagles added a run in the eighth to increase its lead to two. Brian Van Kirk doubled to center, driving home Warmerdam. Van Kirk then was thrown out at the plate on a Warfle single, keeping the Valpo deficit at 4-2.
Valpo was unable to muster more than one baserunner in the final two innings, falling to the loser's bracket and having to face Centenary just 45 minutes following the conclusion in the elimination game.
Mazzone (4-7) worked 5.1 innings allowing three runs and seven hits while Gibbs went the final 3.2 allowing just one run and five hits. Jeremy Hefner (9-1) went the distance for Oral Roberts (39-15), allowing just the two unearned runs and six hits. The Golden Eagles' Adam Younger went 3-for-4 with a double to lead all hitters.
Valparaiso sees its season come to a close with a 22-34 record, matching the most victories for the Crusaders since the 2001 campaign.