UIC combined to score 28 runs on 30 hits on Friday afternoon as the Flames swept a doubleheader from Valparaiso 14-12 and 14-4 at Emory G. Bauer Field in Horizon League action.
The first game turned into a slugfest during the middle innings, as the two sided combined for 23 runs from the third through sixth frames.
UIC jumped in front in the second scoring a pair of unearned runs aided by an error and two hit batsmen. An RBI single by Tony Altavilla, one of four hits and three runs batted in for the game for him, in the third increased the visitors lead to 3-0.
Valpo answered with two in the third and two more in the fourth, only to see UIC score four in the top of the fifth. A bases loaded walk to Jason Brunelli (Greenfield, Wis./Greenfield H.S.) in the bottom of the fifth started a four-run inning for the Crusaders. Ryan O’Gara (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Buffalo Grove H.S.) and Brett Bivens (Battle Creek, Mich./Lakeview H.S.) each drove home runs with singles to give Valpo an 8-7 advantage.
UIC scored six times in the sixth, including back-to-back homers by Kevin Coddington and Altavilla. The Crusaders again fought back. Zach Rodeghero (New Lenox, Ill./Providence Catholic H.S.) started the bottom of the inning with a one-out double and scored on a hit by Brunelli. Mark Schoeck (Bellefontaine, Ohio/Bellefontaine H.S.) followed with a run-scoring single and O’Gara added a sacrifice fly. A Bivens double cut the deficit to one, 13-12.
Neither team found the scoreboard in the seventh or eighth, but a sacrifice fly in the ninth gave UIC an insurance run. Valpo brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, but could not do any damage.
Chris Kovacevich (1-3) earned the victory for UIC while Ada Worthington picked up his fourth save after allowing just one hit in the final 3.1 innings of work. Andy Parker (Ottawa Hills, Ohio/Ottawa Hills H.S.) suffered the loss (0-1) for the Crusaders.
O’Gara and Rodeghero both had three hits to pace Valpo’s 14-hit attack while Jake Carr had three hits for UIC in addition to Altavilla’s four-hit performance.
Game two saw UIC (22-13, 11-3 Horizon League) score eight times in the second and Valpo could not recover. Back-to-back homers by Carr and Brett Schaefer were the big blows in the inning. After the Flames added another run in the third, Valpo got on the scoreboard with a RBI groundout by Rodeghero. Justin Frane (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll H.S.) homered in the fourth for the Brown and Gold before UIC tacked on two more runs in the fifth on a Rafael Garcia homer.
Three runs in the sixth put the Flames in front 14-2 and the Crusaders added single runs in the sixth and seventh on a single by Frane and a single by Josh Wallace (Bellefontaine, Ohio/Bellefontaine H.S.).
Don Phillis (4-1) went seven innings striking out eight to get the win for the Flames while Jon Gulbransen (Appleton, Wis./Fox Valley Lutheran H.S.) suffered the loss for the Crusaders.
John Giusti (Coventry, R.I./Coventry H.S.) went 4-for-5 for Valpo in the night cap to lead the 12-hit attack while Schaefer was 4-for-4 to lead the Flames as they had 14 hits.
“This was not a good day to be a pitcher,” head coach Tracy Woodson said, talking about the wind blowing out. “Our pitchers need to learn to keep the ball down. They took advantage of the wind better than we did. The second game we just got behind early and couldn’t play catch up.”
Valparaiso (10-23, 3-7) will host Wright State in another Horizon League twinbill on Saturday. First pitch at Emory G. Bauer Field is set for noon.