It looked like the same old story when it came to the Valparaiso offense lately on Friday, as the Crusaders picked up just five hits through the first seven innings. But a switch was flipped in the eighth inning, one which started an exciting Valpo comeback as the Crusaders defeated Oakland in 11 innings, 5-4.
Chris Manning (Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro) had three hits in the ballgame, but none was bigger than the drive that kicked off the scoring in the eighth, when he hit a two-run double to the gap which cut the Oakland lead to 4-2. He would later come around to score, cutting the deficit to one as he took third on a wild pitch and rounded the bag to score on a throwing error by the Oakland catcher. One inning later, Manning was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and two outs to drive home the tying run in the form of JP Paciocco (Austin, Texas/Crockett), who pinch-ran after a one-out double by Jake Hanson (Yorkville, Ill./Aurora Christian).
In the 11th, after a Ray Bartolomucci (Concord, Calif./De La Salle) single and a Kyle Schneider (Mishawaka, Ind./Penn) sacrifice bunt, Spencer Mahoney (La Grange Park, Ill./Lyons Township) made contact on his third hit of the afternoon, which got under the second baseman’s glove into right field for the walk-off game-winner.
Oakland started the scoring with a pair of runs in the second inning on a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly. The Golden Grizzlies added single tallies in the sixth and seventh innings to push their lead to 4-0 before the Crusaders’ comeback started.
Cole Webb (Tulsa, Okla./Union) started and threw six solid innings for the Crusaders, recovering from a shaky start to give up only three runs and struck out six batters. It would be Karch Kowalczyk (Peru, Ill./La Salle-Peru) who picked up his first win of the season after putting in 2.2 solid innings of relief. Logan Sparkman took the loss for Oakland, falling to 0-4 on the year.
The Crusaders (17-23, 7-9 Horizon) will look to pick up another win during Senior Day on Saturday afternoon against the Golden Grizzlies (7-27, 2-14 HL) with first pitch slated for noon. Gametracker and radio links will be available at Valpoathletics.com.