For the second straight day, Shea Molitor (Plymouth, Minn./West Lutheran [Des Moines Area CC]) provided some late-inning heroics, but Milwaukee got the last laugh in a 7-6 victory at Henry Aaron Field in Wisconsin on Friday. With the Panthers one out away from a 6-5 win, Molitor shot a single into left that scored Daniel Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]) to tie the game. But in the bottom half of the ninth, Mike Porcaro ended the game with a bases-loaded base hit to center.
Starter Dalton Lundeen (Streamwood, Ill./Streamwood) mowed down Milwaukee through the first two innings before experiencing a four-run hiccup in the third.
Outfielder Sam Hammer stroked a leadoff double to left. Derek Peake then reached base with a bunt towards first base. Peake promptly stole second base with Luke Meeteer at the plate. Meeteer drove Hammer in with a double to right-center. Ryan McShane made it 2-0 in the next at-bat with a sacrifice fly to center. Sam Koenig homered to deep left on the first pitch of his at-bat against Lundeen. His sixth round-tripper put Milwaukee ahead 4-0.
Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]) made it a 4-3 game in the fifth with one swing of the bat. After Mark Johnson (Evanston, Ill./Evanston Township) drew a one-out walk, Spencer Mahoney (La Grange Park, Ill./Lyons Township) took an Adam Reuss delivery off his lower leg to put two on for the Crusader right fielder. Lodden unloaded a laser to right field that cleared the fence to cut the margin to one run.
Valpo wasn't finished in the inning. Five batters later, Molitor drove in Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) and Dustin Beasley (Round Rock, Texas/Stony Point [Cisco]) who both reached by means of a walk. The Brown and Gold took a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the fifth.
Milwaukee answered right away, plating two in its half. Koenig collected his third RBI of the game with a double off the 390' sign in center, scoring McShane. Catcher Mitch Ghelfi traded places with Koenig in the next at-bat after a double to right center.
Lundeen endured seven innings on the mound for Valpo. The workhorse pumped strikes early and often. 92 of his 125 pitches went for strikes. He exited the game in line for the loss until Molitor got him off the hook with his two-out, run-scoring single. Lundeen struck out ten batters without issuing a walk.
Freshman Luke VanLanen (Pulaski, Wis./Pulaski) took the tough-luck loss for the Crusaders. He pitched 1 1/3 innings for Valpo, allowing two hits and an intentional walk.
Porcaro attempted two suicide squeeze attempts - both failed - with the bases loaded in the ninth before muscling an inside fastball from Zack Walsh (Batesville, Ind./Batesville [Connecticut]) into center for the game winner.
Valpo (10-15, 6-4 Horizon) and Milwaukee (13-9, 4-6 Horizon) will play the deciding game of the series Saturday at 1 pm CT. Ryan Fritze (1-3, 4.34) will take the mound for the Crusaders against the Panthers' Joe Pavlovich (2-0, 4.65). A link to the live stats is up at ValpoAthletics.com.