After a tight seven innings, Valpo capitalized on a pair of wild pitches to take the lead, overcoming the Western Michigan Broncos in a 5-3 victory. The win settles the score between the two teams, as the Crusaders fell to the Broncos in Kalamazoo two weeks ago.
The Crusaders outhit Western Michigan, but stranded runners every inning but the 7th, for a total of 15.
The Broncos started off quickly with aggressive bats and base-running as they took an early 2-0 lead off a pair of hits by Andrew Sohn and Jared Kujawa. The Crusaders shut down the inning with a quick double play, but the damage had been done.
As they have so often lately, the Crusaders battled back after allowing a first inning score.
In the second inning, Andrew Bain plated Billy Cribbs with a single through the left side for the first RBI of the game.
The Broncos quickly responded with a run of their own in the top of the 3rd inning.
But once again, Valpo was able to counter as Andrew Bynum hit a high sacrifice fly deep to center, scoring Chris Manning.
In the 4th inning, Bain sliced a single to left field, setting up Tanner Vavra for a huge double to the left-center gap, scoring Bain from first and evening the score at 3-3.
Ben Mahar had a stellar pitching performance, earning his third win of the season as he threw three innings, allowing just one baserunner and collecting two strikeouts in the process. His efforts in part held the Broncos scoreless after the third inning.
It stayed a 3-3 game up until the eighth inning.
With two outs, Vavra drew a walk and John Loeffler followed it up with a single.
With Manning at the plate, back-to-back wild pitches from reliever Casey Hall allowed both runners to score, putting Valpo in the lead for the first time all game.
The Broncos managed to hold on as the Crusaders threatened with the bases loaded, but that was all the Brown and Gold needed.
Karch Kowalczyk efficiently shut down the Broncos in the 9th, allowing no runs as he earned his fifth save of the season.
Manning had a solid hitting performance, going 3-for-4 and scoring once for Valparaiso. Three other Crusaders notched multiple-hit games, as they tallied 14 overall.
Drew Hasler allowed only two earned runs in five innings in his second start as a Crusader. The freshman did not walk a batter and struck out one.
With the win, Valpo (20-23, 7-8 Horizon) finishes with an 11-7 record in the month of April.
The Crusaders will take on conference rival Milwaukee (19-16, 11-4 Horizon) Friday at 3:00 pm, hosting the Panthers at Emory G. Bauer Field in the first game of the series.