There was a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for the Valparaiso University baseball team on Saturday night as the Crusaders defeated Hawai’i 7-2 to win the weekend series against the Rainbows before a sellout crowd of 4,494 at Les Murakami Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.
“Coming over here and taking two of three against a good Hawai’i team shows what we are capable of doing,” head coach Tracy Woodson said. “Some of the top teams in the country have come over here and not won series or have been swept. It’s great to play in front of so many people like we did tonight.”
Valpo jumped out to a 5-0 lead before Hawai’i even came to bat as the Crusaders chased rainbow starter Connor Little after just five batters. Kyle Gaedele (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect H.S.) and Steven Scoby (Delton, Mich./Delton Kellogg H.S.) led off the game with back-to-back walks and Chris Manning (Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro H.S.) loaded the bases with a bunt single. Will Hagel (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect H.S.) delivered a two-run single to left-center, and moved to second when the outfielder bobbled the ball. Robbie Robinson (Brea, Calif./Olinda H.S.) made it 4-0 Brown and Gold with a triple to the gap in left-center. Little departed at that point, but two batters later Robinson scored on a squeeze bunt by Corey Thibault (Tustin, Calif./Foothill H.S.).
“Jumping out to that lead really set the tone of the ball game,” Woodson said. “It relaxed everyone a little bit.”
Damon McCormick (Louisville, Ky./Saint Xavier H.S.) was staked to the early lead, but gave up a lead off walk to Breland Almadova. After a single by Sean Montplaisir, Kolten Wong put the Rainbows on the scoreboard with a single to left.
Hawai’i (22-17) added a run in the third as Wong led off with a triple and scored two batters later on a ground out by Zack Swasey. That would be the last hit the Rainbows would get off of McCormick in his eight innings of work. The senior right-hander struck out 10 while allowing just two runs and four hits to earn the win (3-5). He allowed just the one triple after the first inning.
“Damon didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but he showed guts pitching through the eighth,” Woodson added.
Valpo added a run off of reliever Zach Gallagher in the fourth. Bobby Martin (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge H.S.) led off with a single. With two outs, Andrew Bain (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor H.S.) singled to put two men aboard. Martin and Bain moved up 90 feet on a balk and the Rainbows intentionally walked Gaedele to load the bases. Scoby made them pay with a single up the middle to score Martin, but Bain was thrown out at the plate by Almadova for the final out of the inning. The Crusaders did increase the lead to 6-2.
Gallagher limited Valpo’s damage in the middle innings, working seven innings after coming on in the first. He scattered seven hits and allowed just the one run while striking out four.
The Crusaders added one final run in the ninth as Gaedele tripled to lead off the inning off of the top of the fence in straight away center. Two batters later, Manning plated him with an infield ground out.
Karch Kowalczyk (Peru, Ill./La Salle-Peru H.S.) came on to pitch a 1-2-3 ninth to close out the game.
Manning finished the night with three hits while Gaedele and Hagel had two hits a piece as part of Valpo’s 11-hit attack. Wong had two of Hawai’i’s four hits.
Little suffered the loss (3-3) for Hawai’i, allowing five runs and three hits while walking two and not retiring a batter.
“The attitude of this team is unbelievable right now,” Woodson concluded. “We’re playing some pretty good ball.”
Valparaiso (17-22), winner in 11 of its last 12 games, returns home to Emory G. Bauer Field on Tuesday afternoon to host Purdue. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m.