Valparaiso erupted for six runs in the second inning to beat the rain that came and called the game after four-and-a-half innings, but the Crusaders defeated Southern Utah 7-1 to wrap up a sweep of the Thunderbirds at Emory G. Bauer Field on Sunday morning to close out the 2007 regular season.
Jeff Rickert (Hamilton, Ohio/Fairfield H.S.) led off the game for Valpo with a single and eventually scored on a double play grounder to give the Crusaders a quick 1-0 lead.
The Crusaders then sent 10 batters to the plate in the second, scoring six times. Josh Piazza (Glenview, Ill./Notre Dame H.S.) scored on a wild pitch and Rickert used a squeeze bunt to bring home Brian Rzepka (South Bend, Ind./Penn H.S.) with the second run, reaching himself on an error. Zach Rodeghero (New Lenox, Ill./Providence Catholic H.S.) added a two-run single and Ryan Manthei (Kenosha, Wis./Tremper H.S.) scored Michael Arensdorff (Eldridge, Iowa/North Scott H.S.) with a sacrifice fly. Jason Brunelli (Greenfield, Wis./Greenfield H.S.) closed out the damage in the inning with a run-scoring double to left-center.
Southern Utah (11-45, 6-14 Mid-Con) scored its lone run in the rain in the top of the sixth inning on a Crusader throwing error.
Elliott Gibbs (Munster, Ind./Munster H.S.) started and worked three innings, allowing just two hits while striking out three. Jay Clites (Ann Arbor, Mich./Pioneer H.S.) earned the win (3-1), throwing the final two innings. Derek Job (0-10) suffered the loss for the Thunderbirds.
Valparaiso (21-32, 10-10) finishes the regular season in third place in the Mid-Con with a .500 mark in league play for the first time since 2001. The Crusaders will head to Macomb, Ill. on Thursday to begin the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament. Official tournament pairings and schedule will be released early in the week.