Valpo rallied back from three separate deficits to claim an 11-10 win in 12 innings over Milwaukee at Henry Aaron Field on Thursday. Bryce Yoder (Spencerville, Ind./Eastside) pitched a career-most 4 1/3 innings out of the bullpen to earn the win while Spencer Mahoney (La Grange Park, Ill./Lyons Township) and Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]) each had three-hit games at the plate.
The Crusaders answered the Panthers in the second through fourth innings.
Milwaukee broke a scoreless tie in the bottom half of the second. Mike Porcaro led off the frame with a home run down the left-field line. Tell Taylor doubled on the very next pitch he saw from Mario Losi (Anaheim, Calif./Canyon) and later advanced to third on a passed ball. Derek Peake sent a fly ball to left that was deep enough for Taylor to score.
Valpo got those two runs right back in its next at-bat. Mark Johnson (Evanston, Ill./Evanston Township) got aboard via a firm drag bunt between first and second. A wild pitch advanced him to second before Mahoney traded places with him following a double to right-center field. Two batters later, Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) drove in his team-high 32nd run with a sacrifice fly.
Ryan McShane put the Panthers back on top in their half of the third. He yanked Losi's first offering of the inning over the left-field wall. Porcaro made it 4-2 later in the inning when he doubled home Mitch Ghelfi.
Johnson again played a big role in Valpo tying the game for the second time. He plated Clark and Shea Molitor (Plymouth, Minn./West Lutheran [Des Moines Area CC]) with a single to right. Clark got on with his second hit in as many at-bats while Molitor worked a walk.
Milwaukee garnered its third lead in a three-run fifth. The first three Panthers reached base against reliever Trevor Haas (Mount Prospect, Ill./Hersey) including Porcaro, who gave UWM a 6-4 edge with a two-run single. The Milwaukee designated hitter racked up four runs batted in over his first three at-bats. He scored three batters later on a fielding error in right.
The two teams traded runs in the sixth.
Molitor took UWM starter Brian Keller yard for his first home run in a Crusader uniform. His round-tripper cut the deficit to 7-5.
McShane smacked a one-out double down the right-field line in the bottom half, before moving up 90 feet on a wild pitch. Ghelfi drove him home with a sac fly in foul territory near the Crusader bullpen. The Panthers entered the seventh with an 8-5 lead.
Valpo plated two immediately before the seventh-inning stretch. Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]) ended Keller's afternoon with a double to left-center that allowed Mahoney to race home from first. Palace and Daniel Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]) greeted reliever Zach Brenner with back-to-back singles. Delaney's knock brought in Lodden from third to draw Valpo to within 8-7.
Ben Mahar (Mundelein, Ill./Mundelein) worked a 1-2-3 seventh to get the Crusaders right back in the dugout.
Lodden provided another run-scoring hit, this one with two outs on the first pitch of the at-bat.
Yoder entered in a dicey situation in the ninth with the game tied at 8-8. With runners on first and second, the junior recorded the second out of the inning on a pickoff of a double steal. With Milwaukee's big bat at the plate and the winning run on third, Yoder snagged a liner off the bat of Sam Koenig to send the game to extras.
Both teams stranded runners in the first two extra frames.
Valpo finally struck in the top of the 12th. Dustin Beasley (Round Rock, Texas/Stony Point [Cisco]) sent a ball deep into the six-hole that McShane was able to glove and fire to first. Beasley beat the throw and then was awarded second base when the throw hopped over Koenig's glove at first. Clark followed with a single to center to set up a runners-on-the-corners situation.
Molitor gave the Crusaders their first lead of the game when he sent a grounder to the left side of the infield that pinballed its way into left. Jeff Edwards (Massillon, Ohio/Jackson) subsequently laid down a tough two-strike sac bunt to scoot both runners up. Mahoney supplied the exclamation point with a two-run single to right that gave the Brown and Gold an 11-8 advantage.
Milwaukee saw its leadoff batter reach base in its half of the 12th. Taylor caught a Yoder delivery in the hip, but was quickly erased with a 5-4-3 double play.
Despite a three-run deficit with two outs, the Panthers managed to bring the winning run to the plate.
Daulton Varsho and Derek Peake smacked back-to-back singles to reach base for Luke Meeteer. Meeteer sent a ball to right center that landed beneath a diving Mark Johnson, allowing both runners to score and resulting in a triple for the Panther center fielder.
Zack Walsh (Batesville, Ind./Batesville [Connecticut]) was called on to get the final out of the game, and he did so, coaxing a soft liner to center to preserve the Crusader win. Walsh earned his first save of the season after his three-pitch outing.
Yoder threw 60 pitches over 4 1/3 innings, both career watermarks. He was given the win for his enduring effort. Justin Jaquish took the loss for UWM.
The Crusaders were 8-for-16 at the plate with runners in scoring position. The win came in Valpo's first extra-inning affair of 2015.
Valpo (10-14, 6-3 Horizon) and Milwaukee (12-9, 3-6 Horizon) will continue their series on Friday at 1 pm CT. Links to the live stats are up at ValpoAthletics.com.