A three-run ninth inning propelled Valparaiso to a 7-4 victory over Murray State on Sunday afternoon at Reagan Field in Murray, Ky., allowing the Crusaders to take the first series of the 2012 season two games to one in which each contest was decided in the ninth inning or later.
“There were definitely a lot of positives this weekend,” head coach Tracy Woodson said. “Our pitching was tremendous and defensively we played with consistency. We made some good plays on the infield.”
With the game tied at four entering the ninth, Billy Cribbs (Rochester, Mich./Rochester H.S.) led off the inning being hit by a pitch and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Spencer Mahoney (LaGrange Park, Ill./Lyons Township H.S.) drew a walk and Tanner Vavra (Menomonie, Wis./Menomonie H.S.) delivered a two-run triple down the rightfield line, putting the Crusaders on top 6-4. Andrew Bain (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor H.S.) followed with a single up the middle and Valpo had a three-run lead.
“There’s a different attitude with this team late in the game,” Woodson added. “They have been working hard and believe they can be successful. The excitement they showed following that go-ahead triple is something I haven’t seen from our guys in a long time.”
Jarad Miller (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll H.S.) came on in the bottom of the inning and notched his 29th career save to secure the victory.
Chris Manning (Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro H.S.) started the scoring for Valpo in the opening inning with a two-run homer, the first by a Crusader this season. Bain also scored after reaching on a one-out single.
The Racers cut the lead in half in the bottom of the first on a Dylan Wheeler single.
Valpo extended the lead to 4-1 in the fifth. Following a single by Bain and a walk to Manning, Will Hagel (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect H.S.) delivered a two-run double, extending his hitting streak to 16 straight games in the process.
Jacob Rhodes made it a 4-2 game in the sixth with a RBI double and Murray State tied the game in the eighth. With two outs, three straight hits, the last a two-run single through the right side by Colton Speed knotted the game at four before Valpo answered in the top of the ninth.
Will Robinson (Placentia, Calif./Valencia H.S.), who picked up the save in the opener of the series, earned the victory (1-0). The fifth-year senior worked three innings before giving way to Miller in the ninth. Tyler Saltsman suffered the loss (0-1) for Murray State.
Bain finished the game with three hits while Hagel added two as part of Valpo’s eight-hit attack. Rhodes went 3-for-4 to lead Murray State (1-2) at the plate.
Valparaiso (2-1) will return to action next Friday afternoon in Fayetteville, Ark. facing nationally-ranked Arkansas. First pitch in game one of the three-game set is slated for 3:05 p.m.