Jason Brunelli’s (Greenfield, Wis./Greenfield H.S.) pinch hit single through the leftside of the infield with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning gave Valparaiso a 10-9 victory over Saint Francis (Ind.) on Wednesday afternoon on a windy day at Emory G. Bauer Field.
With the game tied at nine, John Giusti (Coventry, R.I./Coventry H.S.), making his first appearance since returning from a hand injury, singled to lead off the inning and stole second. With one out, Dan DeBruin (Combined Locks, Wis./Kimberly H.S.) walked and Brunelli game through with the winning hit.
Valpo jumped out to an early lead as Mark Schoeck (Bellefontaine, Ohio/Bellefontaine H.S.) singled home Justin Frane (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll H.S.). The Crusaders added three more runs in the second on a two-run double by DeBruin and a Frane sacrifice fly.
Saint Francis (18-22) answered with a three spot in the top of the third as Austin Leisure homered and the Cougars had a pair of doubles by Colin Zwiebel and Jarrod Wehri.
The Crusaders added single runs in the fourth and fifth to rebuild the lead to 6-3. Zach Rodeghero (New Lenox, Ill./Providence Catholic H.S.) had a sacrifice fly to score Frane, who tripled, in the fourth and Giusti had a sacrifice fly to score Schoeck in the fifth.
The Cougars tied the game in the six with three more runs on a double by Zwiebel and a two-run single by Travis Potchka. Rodeghero put the Brown and Gold back on top in the bottom of the sixth with a two-out double to extend his hitting streak to 11 straight games. He then scored all the way from second on a wild pitch.
Saint Francis took a 9-7 lead in the seventh with its third three-run inning of the game. Zwiebel’s third hit of the game scored one and Potchka, who had four hits, added another RBI single. Jonathan Sapersantos made it a two-run advantage with his two-out hit in the inning.
A Giusti RBI single in the bottom of the frame cut the Valpo deficit to one, and Damon McCormick (Louisville, Ky./Saint Xavier H.S.) came through with the game-tying single to right-center.
Neither team could push another run across the plate until Brunelli’s game-winning hit in the 10th.
Jarad Miller (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll H.S.), the seventh Crusader pitcher of the game, earned the win (2-1) retiring all six hitters he faced after coming on in the ninth. Greg Kerro (0-3) suffered the loss for the Cougars, pitching the final 2.1 innings in relief.
“It is difficult to play in these windy conditions,” head coach Tracy Woodson said. “I’m just happy we won the game. The pitchers that left the ball up gave up runs while the guys that kept the ball down pitched well.”
Saint Francis had 17 hits in the ball game, with every starter collecting at least one.
Valparaiso (10-21) has now won back-to-back games and will look to extend the winning streak on Friday afternoon as the Crusaders host Horizon League-leading UIC. First pitch of the doubleheader at Emory G. Bauer Field is set for 12 p.m.