A bullpen that has represented Valpo's biggest weapon in Horizon League play continued its authority Friday over first place Milwaukee.
A back-and-forth battle resulted in a 5-3 Crusaders win over the Panthers in an early start at Emory G. Bauer Field. The win puts Valpo ahead in the first game of the conference series, and snaps Milwaukee’s win streak at eight.
Andrew Bain got the Crusaders started early with a line-drive single to left field on the first pitch.
John Loeffler pushed him across the plate with two outs, as Valpo took an early lead over the Panthers.
The Panthers responded with a series of hits, racking up four singles and two runs in the second inning to regain the lead and establish some momentum in the game.
Not to be outdone, Valparaiso answered back with Karch Kowalczyk capitalizing on a defensive error to start and loading the bases on back-to-back singles from Spencer Mahoney and Billy Cribbs.
The first run of the inning came when Andy Burns was hit by a Jake Long delivery, and Andrew Bain hit another single early in the count to pick up his first RBI of the game, re-taking the lead at 3-2. The Panther defense tightened up after that point, and shut down the inning on a double play.
In the top of the fourth, Milwaukee efficiently put runners on the bases with four singles in a row. Luke Meeteer tied up the game with a single to right field, scoring Ryan Solberg. On that play Derek Peake strayed too far off the bag after advancing to second, and Loeffler - the cutoff man - fired the ball to the shortstop to pick him off for the first out of the inning.
Valpo collected the next two outs on the next two batters, preventing the Panthers from continuing their offensive damage.
Burns led off the bottom of the fourth with his second single on the day, and plated his second run off Bryce Hara’s single to left field. The RBI pushed Valpo back into the lead 4-3.
The Brown and Gold then added an insurance run, as Bain scored on a deep sacrifice fly off the bat of Loeffler.
The rest of the game went quickly, as neither team scored after the fourth inning. Both the Crusaders and the Panthers threatened throughout the game, but they failed to capitalize on early baserunners.
Chris DeBoo got the nod for the start, struggling early as he gave up eleven hits and all three runs to Milwaukee.
Kyle Wormington relieved him after the fourth inning, holding the Panthers to just two hits, walking one and striking out three, earning his third win of the year.
Kowalczyk entered from the DH position to close the game, holding the Panthers and securing the win for the Crusaders.
Overall, both teams had their opportunities, with Valpo collecting 11 hits to Milwaukee’s 13.
Long struggled against Valpo’s offense, giving up eight hits and all five runs before exiting in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Not one batter on either team hit for extra bases; all 24 hits were singles.
The win puts Valparaiso’s record at 21-23 overall, 8-8 in conference play. Milwaukee’s loss drops them to 21-17 overall, with 11-5 in conference.
Game two of the series will be held Saturday at Emory G. Bauer Field at 1:00 pm