Daniel Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]) and Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]) both enjoyed four-hit afternoons while Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) and Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]) combined to drive in five runs in Valpo's 10-8 series-clinching win over Youngstown State Saturday at Emory G. Bauer Field.
Palace put the Crusaders on the scoreboard in the first with a triple down the right-field line that had Lodden sprint his way home from first. Lodden reached via a one-out walk. Delaney, the next batter, hooked a double inside the left-field chalk to put Valpo ahead 2-0.
Delaney notched his second RBI in as many innings in the following frame without lifting the bat off his shoulders. He drew a four-pitch walk from YSU starter D.J. Carr that allowed Jeff Edwards (Massillon, Ohio/Jackson) to stroll home from third. The Crusader second baseman opened the inning with a single to left.
Valpo starting pitcher Ryan Fritze (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury [Des Moines Area CC]) protected a 3-0 lead with a 1-2-3 second frame.
The Penguins manufactured a four-run side to chase Fritze in the third, however.
It all started with a four-pitch, leadoff walk. Youngstown State center fielder Frank Califano sent a chopper along the third-base line that skipped through Shea Molitor (Plymouth, Minn./West Lutheran [Des Moines Area CC])'s legs and into left. With runners on second and first, Jason Shirley laid down a sacrifice bunt that resulted in a throwing error. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Fritze settled down and recorded a pair of strikeouts. It appeared as though the junior was going to work his way out of the jam, but Shane Willoughby and Jonny Miller smacked back-to-back two-run singles to put the Penguins ahead 4-3.
Freshman Connor Kaucic (Chardon, Ohio/Notre Dame Cathedral Latin) came on in relief of Fritze. The lefty coaxed an inning-ending ground out to avoid any further damage.
Shirley made it a 5-3 game in the fourth with a sac fly into foul territory in left.
Valpo eventually regained the lead against an already-taxed Youngstown State bullpen.
Clark and Molitor stroked consecutive singles to open the fifth. Similar to the play in the YSU half of the fourth, Edwards laid down a bunt that the third baseman threw away. Clark was able to score from second on the miscue.
Spencer Mahoney (La Grange Park, Ill./Lyons Township) tied the game at 5-5 with an RBI ground out to short. Lodden prolonged the inning after he provided a clutch, opposite-field, two-out single to score Edwards.
It remained a one-run game until the Valpo half of the seventh. Back-to-back walks to freshman Giovanni Garbella (San Diego, Calif./Cathedral Catholic) and Mahoney came back to harm Penguin reliever Anthony Konders. With YSU skipper Steve Gillispie anticipating a bunt, Lodden smacked an RBI double through the wheel play.
Palace extended the Crusader lead to 9-5 when he greeted Youngstown State's fourth reliever, Ryan Krokos, with a two-run single between shortstop and third base. Five batters later, Krokos hit Edwards with the bases loaded to force in the 10th run.
The Penguins assembled a valiant comeback in the bottom of the seventh. Three walks and a single brought Bryce Yoder (Spencerville, Ind./Eastside) into a 10-6 ballgame with the bases loaded and two outs.
Designated hitter Josh Fitch sent a 1-1 delivery down the line that snuck between Molitor and the third base coach, bringing in two runs and creating a 10-8 tilt. With the tying runs in scoring position, Yoder caught pinch-hitter Joe King looking for the final out of the inning. The strikeout kept it a two-run game.
The junior sat down six of the next seven batters he faced to secure the 10-8 win. He earned his second save in the process. Kaucic was awarded the win, his first collegiate victory.
Valpo (6-12, 3-2 Horizon) will go for the sweep on Sunday at Emory G. Bauer Field. Mario Losi (1-1, 5.91) will have the first pitch at 12:00 pm CT. Links to the audio and live stats will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.