Sophomore Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) enjoyed a career day at the plate, launching a pair of home runs as part of a seven-RBI game in the Crusaders' 17-5 victory over the USC Upstate Spartans at Harley Park in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]) drove in three runs, scored four times, and walked twice as the junior is the owner of a .476/.577/.810 slash line since moving to the second spot of the batting order a week ago.
Ryan Fritze (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury [Des Moines Area CC) earned his first win in the Brown and Gold after he allowed just two earned runs over 5 1/3 innings.
Valpo scored early and often in this one. The first three batters reached base for the Brown and Gold. Spencer Mahoney (La Grange Park, Ill./Lyons Township) got things started with a single to right field. He raced home after Lodden followed with a double to left-center field. Palace made it 3-0 when he sent a Tyler Jackson offering deep over the center field fence.
Fritze responded with a clean home half of the inning, a feat the Valpo pitching staff was unable to achieve even once in the series opener on Friday.
The Crusaders tacked on three more runs in the second. Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif./Woodbridge) sent a leadoff double into center field before scoring two batters later on a Mark Johnson (Evanston, Ill./Evanston Township) knock. A Mahoney ground out advanced Johnson and Jeff Edwards (Massillon, Ohio/Jackson) into scoring position. Lodden delivered for the Crusaders yet again, shooting a ball back up the box that scored two.
After another scoreless frame from Fritze, Valpo added to its cushion with a third-inning score. A leadoff walk to Daniel Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]) came back to bite USC Upstate reliever Coleman Arrowood. Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]) reached via a single before Edwards registered a two-out RBI single.
A pair of Valpo errors parlayed into two Spartan runs in the home half of the third.
But just as USC Upstate began to breathe new life, Palace put Valpo back ahead by a huge margin. Mahoney and Lodden smacked back-to-back singles before Palace stepped to the dish. Palace launched his second homer of the day - and third of the season - over the wall in left, making it 10-2.
Jacob got in on the fun with an RBI single four batters later and Edwards pocketed his second RBI of the game with a sac fly.
Valpo poured on two more runs in the fifth. Mahoney opened the frame with a walk and later touched home on a Delaney sacrifice fly. Clark followed with an opposite-field, run-scoring single.
Armed with a 14-5 lead after seven innings, the Crusader offense seemed to be settled in a post-Thanksgiving Day feast catnap. But Palace wasn't finished. A two-run double off the bat of the Valpo first baseman gave him seven runs batted in and represented the icing on the cake of his day.
Valpo rolled to a 17-5 victory. The Crusaders have already slugged 34 extra-base hits through ten games this season. It took the 2014 Crusaders 26 games to reach that number.
The Crusaders (3-7) and Spartans (6-6) will settle the series Sunday afternoon in a 1:00 pm ET/12:00 pm CT first pitch. Mario Losi (0-1, 5.79) will take the hill for Valpo. Links to the live stats are available at ValpoAthletics.com.