Valparaiso pulled even with Notre Dame in the sixth inning on Wednesday evening, but the Fighting Irish took advantage of the Crusader bullpen in the late innings and defeated the Brown and Gold 10-4 at Frank Eck Stadium in South Bend, Ind.
The Crusaders fought back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game in the sixth, only to see the bullpen allow seven runs and seven hits in 3.2 innings of work.
“It’s disappointing to tie the game up with three runs and then come back and give up four the next time out there,” head coach Tracy Woodson said. “Everyone in the bullpen, with the exception of (Jared) Miller has struggled this year. We’re looking for guys to come out and throw strikes and get guys out. Right now they aren’t doing that.”
Notre Dame opened the scoring in the first with four straight hits. With runners on first and second, Casey Martin singled through the right side to score David Mills and move A.J. Pollack around to third. Martin was thrown out at second after trying to advance on Justin Frane’s (Huntertown, Ind./Carroll H.S.) throw to the plate. Jeremy Barnes followed with a double to the gap in left-center to score Pollack, putting Notre Dame up 2-0 after one.
Valpo starter Tyler Deetjen (Saint Charles, Ill./East H.S.) worked out of jams in the second and third, stranding four Notre Dame runners, including three in starting position.
The Crusaders looked to take advantage of some wildness from Fighting Irish starter Steve Sabatino, who allowed two walks in the third and another in the fourth following a lead off single by Josh Wallace (Bellefountaine, Ohio/Bellefountaine H.S.), who doubled to lead off the second as well. Valpo could not move the runners any further though, managing just the two hits by Wallace through four innings of play.
Notre Dame added to the lead in the fifth as Pollack led off with a walk, and stole both second and third before scoring on a ground out.
Valpo found the scoreboard in the sixth. Kyle Muhlsteff (Yorba Linda, Calif./Esperanza H.S.) struck out to lead off the inning, but reached first on a wild pitch. He moved around to third as Kyle Gaedele (Arlington Heights, Ill./Rolling Meadows H.S.) doubled down the left field line. Wallace followed with a sacrifice fly to left to score Muhlsteff and bring the Crusaders within two, while chasing Sabatino after 5.1 innings.
With Ryan Richter on in relief, he walked both Frane and Andrew Quinnette (Kokomo, Ind./Kokomo H.S.) to load the bases with just one out. Damon McCormick (Louisville, Ky./Saint Xavier H.S.) hit a hot shot to first baseman that skirted through into right for a error, plating both Gaedele and Frane to tie the game at three. A double play ended the inning though.
The Fighting Irish answered in the bottom of the sixth with three straight hits, including a bunt single to load the bases. A passed ball allowed pinch runner Alex Robinson to score the go ahead run. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Pollack made it 5-3 Notre Dame. After the third walk of the inning reloaded the bases, an infield single by Barnes added the third run of the frame and Ryan Connolly followed with a sacrifice fly to put the Fighting Irish up 7-3 as Notre Dame batted around in the inning.
The hosts added a run in the seventh on a single, hit batsman, error, and sacrifice fly by Mills to expand the lead and tacked on two more unearned runs in the bottom of the eighth, taking advantage of a lead off error by the Crusaders.
Valpo added a run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Gaedele for the game’s final tally.
Wallace finished the day 3-for-4 for the Crusaders as Valpo tallied seven hits on the day. Barnes had three hits for the Fighting Irish to lead their 15-hit attack.
Richter (1-0) earned the win for Notre Dame, pitching two innings of relief allowing just one unearned run. Austen Siwiec (Aurora, Ill./Marmion Academy) suffered the loss (0-1) for the Crusaders, surrendering three runs and three hits in two-thirds of an inning.
“We want to come back and have a good weekend starting Friday,” concluded Woodson.
Valparaiso (5-10) will close out its season-opening road trip with a three-game series in Indianapolis, Ind. Friday’s series opener against Butler is set for 2 p.m. CDT with the game carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso), and online at www.valpoathletics.com. this weekend to open Horizon League play.
Game Notes: Light rain began to fall in the bottom third inning and was off and on throughout the middle innings … Frane had his second outfield assist of the day on play at plate in the fourth … Wallace had his team-leading sixth multi-hit game of the season and second three-hit game … Notre Dame stole five bases on the day.