Valpo split a doubleheader versus Wright State Saturday in Dayton. The Crusaders relinquished three leads in a frustrating 6-5 loss to kick off the afternoon before claiming a 5-3 extra-inning win.
Valparaiso (8-13, 0-2) scored first in an action-filled second inning. Bryce Hara ripped a triple off the right-center wall to score Chris Manning for the first run. In the next at-bat, Spencer Mahoney sent a grounder down the first base line. Jeff Limbaugh waved at it, but failed to make contact. Hara scored easily and Mahoney ended up on third on the three-base error.
Billy Cribbs followed with a full-count walk. With runners on the corner and no outs, Mark Johnson chopped a grounder towards Limbaugh. The Raider first baseman fired to second for the front end of the double play. Cribbs appeared to break up the double play cleanly, but the third-base umpire ruled interference on the play. The call meant Mahoney - who had scored on the play - was required to go back to third base and Johnson, by rule, was called out. Mahoney was stranded at third after a groundout by Andrew Bain.
The baffling call prompted head coach Tracy Woodson to play the remainder of the game under protest.
Wright State knotted the game up at 2-2 when Limbaugh came around to score from second on an error by Mahoney. Starting pitcher Cole Webb had induced a double-play ground ball off the bat of Justin Kopale, but the throw from Mahoney to Loeffler was bounced. Loeffler was unable to cleanly scoop it and the ball trickled past him allowing Limbaugh to cross the plate.
The Crusaders recovered the lead in the top of the 5th inning on a John Loeffler RBI single to right field that scored Bain. Loeffler finished the afternoon with three hits.
As was the theme much of the day, the lead didn't last long as catcher Garrett Gray tied the game at 3-3 on a solo home run to left field off Webb.
Valpo got back on top in the visitor's half of the 6th inning when Bain smacked a two-run single off Raider reliever Cody Kopilchack. The gapper to right center plated Hara and Mahoney, giving the Brown and Gold a 5-3 advantage.
In that 6th inning, Mahoney was hit on the knee by a Kopilchack delivery. Originally ruled a foul ball by the home plate umpire, the three men in black convened while the Valpo shortstop was being attended to. The call was overturned which sparked a colorful rebuttal from Wright State head coach Rob Cooper.
Cooper freely and loudly spoke his mind for several minutes before his day ended prematurely.
Ben Mahar came on to relieve Webb in the bottom of the 6th after a Cody Gardner line drive caught the Valpo hurler on his pitching hand. Mahar struck out the first two batters he faced and got a groundout from Kopale.
The Crusaders saw their final lead evaporate in the home half of the 7th. Jeff Edwards came on to replace Mahoney in the 7th inning, after swelling limited his range of motion.
Mahar hung a 3-2 slider to Gray who tripled in two runs for his second and third RBIs of the ball game.
Limbaugh provided the walk-off single for Wright State on a bases-loaded single up the middle.
Travis Hissong (1-0) got the final two outs of the top half of the 9th to earn his first win.
The leadoff man singled in each of the final four innings for Wright State.
Mahar (2-1) was tagged with his first loss of 2013.
By the end of game one of the doubleheader, the Valparaiso bench resembled a MASH unit as Elliott Martin also had to come out of the game because of a hamstring pull.
With the left half of the infield rendered immobile, Woodson shifted Vavra over to shortstop and Bain to second base for game two. Andy Burns was given the start at third.
As they had in the first two games, the Crusaders took the first lead of the game in the second inning.
Burns paid immediate dividends as he delivered with an RBI single to center that scored Hara. Freshman catcher Jake Hanson increased the lead to 2-0 on a run-scoring single on the first pitch he saw from Raider starter Taylor Braun.
Wright State snatched the lead in the bottom of the 3rd inning thanks to a three-run frame. Michael Timm doubled in the designated hitter John Brodner and Gray wreaked more havoc with an RBI single in the following at-bat.
With the score tied at 2-2, Gray touched home plate on a sac fly off the bat of Gardner to give Wright State a one-run lead.
Valpo tied the tilt at 3-3 the very next half inning when Bain's second RBI double of the day plated Kyle Schneider.
Chris DeBoo gave Valpo its only quality start of the weekend, allowing three runs in seven innings. He didn't factor into the decision.
Schneider delivered the game-winning hit in the top of the 10th inning on a single to right field. Burns shimmied his way around the tag from Garrett Gray for the Crusaders' fourth run.
Hanson added an insurance run with his third hit of the game, a single to score Schneider.
Karch Kowalczyk (1-0) improved on his scoreless season thus far, throwing up three impressive zeroes in relief for the win.
Valparaiso (9-13, 1-2) is scheduled to play Ball State on Tuesday afternoon in Muncie. Stay tuned to valpoathletics.com for updates.