Valparaiso rattled off five runs between the seventh and the eighth innings to trim USC Upstate's lead to 8-7, but the tying run was stranded 90 feet away in the Crusaders' third one-run loss in their first nine games.
The Spartans struck first with a pair of first-inning tallies. Daniel Fickas led the game off with an opposite-field double and later scored on a James Fowlkes sacrifice fly to right. USC Upstate added an unearned run two batters later on a Charlie Carpenter base hit.
USC Upstate spotted those two runs back in the top of the second. Dustin Beasley (Round Rock, Texas/Stony Point [Cisco]) and Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]) raced home on a two-out fielding error by Fowlkes in center field. Mark Johnson (Evanston, Ill./Evanston Township) ended up on third base on the play, but was stranded there.
Valpo starting pitcher Dalton Lundeen (Streamwood, Ill./Streamwood) ran into a major hiccup in the bottom half of the second. Lundeen and the Crusaders saw a 2-2 game shift to a 6-2 Spartan advantage following three hits, two walks, and a key miscue. Carpenter's second RBI in as many innings came via a sac fly which gave USC Upstate a four-run advantage.
The sophomore expended a high quantity of pitches in the tumultuous frame, but settled in nicely after that. He tossed two shutout innings after that, and exited after four frames. Lundeen, who was saddled with the loss, allowed six runs - three earned - on eight hits. He matched a career-high in walks with four and struck out three.
The Spartans added two insurance runs in the sixth, runs they ended up needing in the end.
Zach Krider plated Erik Samples with a sacrifice fly before Carpenter scored on a Stephen Dowling single to center field.
The Brown and Gold showed signs of life in the seventh.
Jeff Edwards (Massillon, Ohio/Jackson) recorded a leadoff single and Johnson followed with his first walk of the game. Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC) sliced a ball into the left-center field gap that brought in Edwards. Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) made it 8-4 with a sacrifice fly.
The Crusader offense got right back to work in the eighth. Beasley drew a leadoff walk against Spartan reliever Brad Emery. Clark stepped in and sent a deep blast over the right-field fence, His first round-tripper as a Crusader sliced the deficit to two runs. Valpo wasn't done after Clark's two-run shot. A pair of walks and an error loaded the bases for Palace. The sophomore laced a ball to the left side of the infield that USC Upstate third baseman Jake Beaver couldn't corral, allowing Edwards to score and make it a one-run game.
Beasley, who led off the ninth with a single, represented the tying run. A Clark sac bunt advanced Beasley to second base with one away. Beasley moved over to third on a Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif./Woodbridge). Edwards was originally the last hope for Valparaiso, but the second baseman was able to extend the game to Johnson following a long at-bat that resulted in a walk. Johnson wasn't able to bring Beasley in, however, as the senior flied out to left field to end the game.
Beasley, Clark, and Edwards all registered two runs apiece. Lodden was 2-for-4 with two doubles and a run batted in. USC Upstate committed five errors leading to three unearned runs. The Crusaders mustered just a 2-for-15 day at the dish with runners in scoring position.
The two teams will resume the series Saturday afternoon at Harley Park in Spartanburg, South Carolina. First pitch is slated for 1 pm ET/12 pm CT. Links to the live stats are available at ValpoAthletics.com.