Valparaiso fell one run short on Sunday afternoon in the Horizon League championship game, dropping a 4-3 decision to Wright State at Nischwitz Stadium in Dayton, Ohio.
Damon McCormick (Louisville, Ky./Saint Xavier H.S.) tossed his second complete game of the tournament for the Crusaders, but the Brown and Gold saw the Raiders score the winning run in the seventh inning.
“Of course I’m disappointed in the way it ended,” head coach Tracy Woodson said after the game. “The way Damon pitched it was hard not to see him get the win.”
McCormick allowed the four runs, only three of which were earned, in the eight innings along with 10 hits. He walked one and struck out four in the loss (6-7). He was named to the All-Tournament Team for his efforts after allowing just three earned runs in 17 innings of work for the week.
Valpo jumped on top in the opening inning as Andrew Bain (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor H.S.) led off with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch. After Chris Manning (Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro H.S.) bunted Bain to third, Will Hagel (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect H.S.) plated the run with a sacrifice fly.
The Raiders tied the game in the second with a two-out unearned run. Justin Kopale’s single to left scored Zach Tanner and made it a 1-1 contest.
Ryan O’Gara (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Buffalo Grove H.S.) started Valpo in the fourth with a two-out single. After Steven Scoby (Delton, Mich./Delton Kellogg H.S.) and Michael Morman (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic H.S.) were both hit by pitches to load the bases, Bain drew a walk to force home a run and put the Crusaders on top 2-1.
In the sixth Valpo added to the lead. Scoby reached on a lead-off error and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Morman. Bain’s ground out moved Scoby to third and he scored on a Manning single up the middle, making it 3-1.
Wright State (36-17) tied the game in the sixth. After Zach Tanner tripled with one out, Kopale tied the game with a two-out home run to left, evening the contest.
“Damon made some big pitches throughout the day to get out of jams,” Woodson said. “Unfortunately the one pitch to Kopale was the difference.”
The Raiders scored what would be the winning run in the seventh as Dan Marsh doubled, moved to third on a bunt, and scored on Tristan Moore’s single up the middle.
Michael Schum earned the win (9-2) for the Raiders, pitching three innings of scoreless relief. He hit just one batter, facing one over the minimum over the final three frames.
“We just couldn’t get over the hump after they tied it up,” Woodson added.
Bain and Hagel each had two hits for Valpo as the Crusaders tallied just seven on the afternoon, their lowest output of the tournament. Marsh, Tanner, and Kopale all had two hits for the Raiders as the hosts finished with 10 hits.
Hagel, Manning, Morman, and Robbie Robinson (Brea, Calif./Olinda H.S.), all joined McCormick on the All-Tournament Team for the Crusaders.
“This was a good experience for our guys. I’m proud of how they battled,” Woodson concluded. “Hopefully the young guys are able to learn from it and we’re ready to take that one more step next year.”
Valparaiso finishes the season 25-32 overall.