Junior Dalton Lundeen (Streamwood, Ill./Streamwood) pitched very well in his 2015 debut, but shaky defense cost Valparaiso Friday night in a 5-4 defeat in its season opener versus San Diego State. The Crusaders recorded four miscues altogether, but three in particular translated into four unearned runs for the home club.
Over 2,500 fans were in attendance as San Diego State honored its former head coach Tony Gwynn, who passed away from cancer last June. Multiple family members of the 2007 Hall of Fame inductee were on hand in a moving pregame ceremony held on the field.
As soon as play was underway, SDSU starting pitcher Bubba Derby went right to work. He whiffed six batters his first time through the Valpo order.
San Diego State tallied its first runs of the evening in the bottom half of the second. Andrew Brown singled to right field to start the frame. Things escalated quickly when a two-hopper to second base ricocheted off a glove to create a two-runners-on nobody-out situation. A sacrifice bunt advanced both runners into scoring position. Denz'l Chapman broke the scoreless tie with a chopper over third baseman Shea Molitor (Plymouth, Minn./West Lutheran [Des Moines Area CC])'s head that plated both Aztecs.
SDSU added a cushion run in the fourth. Brown reached via an error at second base, and scored two batters later on a single to center.
It wasn't until the sixth inning that the Crusaders finally cracked Derby. Mark Johnson (Evanston, Ill./Evanston Township) worked a leadoff walk before Spencer Mahoney (LaGrange Park, Ill./Lyons Township) rifled a double into the left-center field gap. Derby struck out the next two Crusaders before giving way to reliever Dalton Douty. Douty stranded Mahoney to keep it a 3-1 ball game.
Derby punched out 14 Crusaders in his 5 2/3 innings of work. Valpo's offense struck out at least twice in every inning the junior appeared.
Following Lundeen's final inning of work - the bottom of the sixth - the Brown and Gold got right back at it in the batter's box. The Crusaders plated three runs on one ball hit out of the infield.
C.J. Saylor came on in relief of Douty in the top of the seventh. He retired the first batter he faced before hitting three consecutive Crusaders. With the bases loaded and the next three Valpo batters due up left-handed, SDSU skipper Mark Martinez summoned southpaw Marcus Reyes. The bullpen capers continued, however.
Reyes issued a four-pitch, run-scoring free pass to Johnson. The left-hander fell behind Mahoney until the Crusader shortstop delivered a game-tying RBI single to center. Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]) gave Valpo a 4-3 lead with an RBI ground out.
The Crusader lead didn't last, though.
Trevor Haas (Mount Prospect, Ill./Hersey) took over for Lundeen in the home half of the seventh. Lundeen scattered six hits over six innings on the hill, striking out four and walking two. Only one of his three runs allowed were earned.
Haas was greeted rudely with a leadoff error which parlayed into two Aztec runs. Catcher Seby Zavala ripped the game-winning hit, a double down the left field line that scored Steven Pallares.
Valpo had at least one man reach in each of the last frames, but were unable to muster another rally. San Diego State hung on by a 5-4 final.
Johnson reached in all four of his plate appearances. His third-inning single was the team's first hit of the season. The center fielder subsequently drew three walks.
Mahoney and Daniel Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]) both had two-hit tilts. Mahoney drove in two and also reached base via a walk.
All nine San Diego State starters registered exactly one hit each.
The two teams continue the series tomorrow at 3 pm CT/1 pm PT. Ryan Fritze (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury [Des Moines Area CC]) will make his Crusader debut on the mound while San Diego State will trot out lefty Brett Seeburger. Links to the video and live stats are available at ValpoAthletics.com.