UIC scored multiple runs in four different innings on Friday evening as the Flames defeated Valparaiso 11-4 at Les Miller Field in Chicago, Ill. to open a three-game Horizon League series.
UIC’s Mike Kool did not allow an earned run in eight innings of work and the Flames registered 16 hits against the Crusaders.
Valpo threatened in the top half of the first inning, putting runners on first and second with just one out before back-to-back fly balls to the warning track ending the inning without a run. UIC then jumped on top in the bottom of the first with three two-out runs. Jake Carr hit his fourth homerun of the season to straight-away center before a wild pitch and an error plated two more runs.
“Getting down early hurt us today,” head coach Tracy Woodson said. “We had guys on in the first and didn’t score and they answered with three. We just couldn’t catch up.”
The Crusaders found the scoreboard in the fourth as Andrew Quinnette (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) doubled into the leftfield corner and moved to third on a passed ball. Matt Lenski’s (Milwaukee, Wis./Marquette University H.S.) followed with a single to cut the Crusader deficit to 3-1. The Brown and Gold threatened for more, but left runners on first and second for the second time in the game.
UIC answered with two more runs in the bottom of the fourth as Brandon Harwell had a run-scoring double and Jason Ganek followed with a RBI single. The Flames plated two more in the fifth on a ground out and a squeeze bunt following three straight singles to lead off the inning, putting UIC on top 7-1.
Jason Brunelli (Greenfield, Wis./Greenfield H.S.) registered an infield single with one out in the eighth for the Crusaders and moved to second Kool threw the ball down the line. A single by Quinnette put runners on the corners with one out before Lenski scored Brunelli with a sacrifice fly to cut the Valpo deficit to 7-2.
A triple by Andy Leonard and a double by Steve McGuiggan spearheaded a four-run eighth inning to UIC as the Flames wrapped up the Flames scoring for the evening.
Valpo tacked on more runs in the ninth as Josh Wallace (Bellefontaine, Ohio/Bellefontaine H.S.) hit his team-leading ninth homerun of the season to lead off the inning. Zach Rodeghero (New Lenox, Ill./Providence Catholic H.S.) added a RBI single with two outs to provide the final margin.
Kool (5-4) earned the victory for UIC allowing just two unearned runs and nine hits in eight innings of work. Bryce Shafer (Wabash, Ind./Northfield H.S.) suffered the loss (3-5), working five innings allowing six earned runs and nine hits.
Valparaiso (18-31, 8-11 Horizon League) and UIC (29-19, 15-6) will wrap up the regular season on Saturday afternoon with a doubleheader in Chicago. First pitch of game one is set for 1:05 p.m. The Crusaders need to win one of the two games to be guaranteed of a fifth place finish and avoiding the first round game in next week’s Horizon League Championships. The Flames need a doubleheader sweep to win the regular season title.