It was just a matter of time before the bats came around. That time came Saturday afternoon in Punta Gorda, Florida as Valpo scored one run in the 7th and two in the 8th to overcome St. Bonaventure 5-4.
The Bonnies struck first in the top of the 3rd inning on a basehit to right field by Justin Ingraham. Ingraham was a thorn in the side of the Valpo pitching staff early on as the St. Bonaventure first baseman had three hits in his first three plate appearances.
The Crusaders answered right back in the bottom half of the 3rd. Catcher Billy Cribbs reached on a basehit up the middle that struck second base. Cribbs reached second on an Asa Johnson wild pitch. Two batters later, designated hitter Andrew Bain hit an identical ball back up the middle that ricocheted off the bag into left center field. Bain reached second base as Cribbs came into score the first run.
Tanner Vavra singled in Bain on the next Crusader at-bat to give Valpo a 2-1 lead.
The Bonnies got to starter Kyle Wormington in the fifth inning. The righty allowed a leadoff single to Bonnie catcher Nick Lohrer before retiring Jonathan Diaz on strikes. The next four batters recorded hits including a run-scoring triple off the bat of Eric Jutca. An outfield assist by Michael Morman limited the damage to two runs.
Head coach Tracy Woodson sent Wormington back out for the sixth inning, but the senior was unable to record an out against the three first batters. Two infield errors created a bases-loaded, no out situation for St. Bonaventure.
Woodson lifted Wormington for reliever Ben Mahar to face Diaz, the ninth-place hitter. Diaz hit a line drive right to Vavra, who then flipped to shortstop Spencer Mahoney for a double play. Mahar next coaxed Jutca into an inning-ending groundout. The Crusaders escaped the perilous inning with no damage, but still trailed 3-2 after six innings.
Cribbs' second hit of the day came in the bottom of the 7th with one out. Bryce Hara reached on a fielder's choice that got the Crusader backstop off the basepaths. Hara promptly stole second base, moving him into scoring position for the top of the order. Bain hit a ball in the six hole that shortstop Michael Meredith was able to get a glove on, but unable to get enough on the throw for the out at first.
With runners at first and third, Vavra dropped a well-placed bunt between the pitcher's mound and third base which he beat out. Hara scored the tying run on the play.
St. Bonaventure reclaimed the lead the next inning on an infield single off the bat of Jutca.
Down 4-3, the Crusaders responded with two of their own. Asa Johnson was sent out for the 8th inning, but got the hook after allowing John Loeffler to lead off with a single to center. Elliott Martin stepped to the plate having reached base in all three prior plate appearances. Relief pitcher Connor Grey made it four as he gave up a hit to the Crusader third baseman. He then surrendered a game-tying basehit to Mahoney on a first-pitch fastball.
With Martin on third and Mahoney on first base, Chris Manning was unable to give Valpo the lead as Grey drew an infield pop-up. With one out, Cribbs hit a fly ball to left field just deep enough for Martin to tag and score the go-ahead run.
With a 5-4 lead, Karch Kowalczyk notched his second save of the season working a scoreless 9th inning.
The Crusaders tallied 12 hits Saturday. Bain had two of them, also scoring a run and knocking one in. Vavra was 3-for-4 with two runs batted in. Martin raised his batting average to .227 with a perfect 3-for-3 day. Cribbs boosted his team-best average to .381 thanks to a 2-for-3 game which included an RBI and a run scored.
The win marks the end of a four-game losing streak for Valparaiso (2-5). The Crusaders take to the diamond again tomorrow morning versus Northeastern (4-4) in Port Charlotte. First pitch is set for 11:00 Eastern/10:00 Central.