The Crusaders scored all six of their runs between the 6th and 8th innings of Friday's opener against Oakland, but 15 hits fueled the Golden Grizzlies to an 8-6 win over Valpo. Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]) enjoyed his 14th multi-hit game of the season with a 3-for-5 afternoon at the plate.
Valpo starter Dalton Lundeen (Streamwood, Ill./Streamwood) spotted Oakland a 6-0 lead after the Grizz knocked out nine hits in 2 2/3 innings against the left-hander. Lundeen and the Crusaders would've been playing from just four runs behind, but a foul ball that went uncaught resulted in a Mike Brosseau two-run single to cap the surge.
Lundeen lasted 2 2/3 innings, his shortest start in a Crusader uniform. He struck out four, walked two and was responsible for six runs (four earned).
Valpo stranded five runners in the first two innings, but was kept quiet by Oakland starter Jason Hager until the sixth inning.
Dustin Beasley (Round Rock, Texas/Stony Point [Cisco]) drove in his first run since March 28th with a sacrifice fly to center that scored Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian). Palace led off the inning with a four-pitch walk that ended a string of three straight innings where Hager faced the minimum.
Zach Sterry pushed the margin back to six runs with an RBI single in the bottom half. Righty Ben Mahar (Mundelein, Ill./Mundelein) did a nice job of minimizing the damage as he was thrust into a bases-loaded, one out scenario. He recorded a strikeout of Ian Yetsko and coaxed an inning-ending 6-3 from Tyler Pagano for the final out following Sterry's run-scoring knock. Oakland led 7-1 after six innings.
The Brown and Gold sliced the deficit in half in the seventh.
Lodden and Palace registered back-to-back singles after a one-out walk to Spencer Mahoney (La Grange Park, Ill./Lyons Township). Palace's hit was of the infield variety and scored the Crusader shortstop from third. Daniel Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]) made it 7-3 with a sac fly to left. The RBI was his 27th of the season. Hager walked the final batter he faced on four pitches - Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]) - before giving way to right-hander Lucas Scocchia.
Beasley greeted the Oakland reliever with a base hit up the middle that plated Palace from second.
The first three Golden Grizzlies reached base in the bottom half, but Mahar buckled down and struck out Brosseau and Tyler Janish for the first two outs. The senior escaped the jam by getting Robby Enslen to ground into a fielder's choice.
The Crusaders cut it to a one-run game in the eighth. Lodden stroked a one-out RBI single into center that allowed Jeff Edwards (Massillon, Ohio/Jackson) to go second to home. Mahoney came into score to make it 7-6 in the next at-bat when Palace lifted a sac fly to right. With the tying run in scoring position, Delaney put a charge into a Scocchia fastball, but Trent Drumheller squeezed it a step in front of the track in left for the final out of the inning.
The Grizz added an insurance run in the home half thanks to a Matt DiLeo sacrifice fly.
Clark reached base with a leadoff walk in the ninth, but a pair of fly outs and a game-ending ground out torpedoed Valpo's comeback attempt.
Connor Kaucic (Chardon, Ohio/Notre Dame Cathedral Latin) supplied the Crusaders with 2 1/3 innings of shutout ball in relief of Lundeen. Mahar struck out a season-high four batters in 2 2/3 innings of work.
Offensively, Palace went 1-for-3 with two runs driven in and two scored. Beasley also knocked in a pair.
Valpo (14-21, 10-8 Horizon) and Oakland (7-26, 4-14 Horizon) will continue play Saturday at 3:00 p.m. ET/2:00 p.m. CT at the Oakland Baseball Field. The Crusaders will send Mario Losi (3-1, 4.73) to the bump to counter right-hander Jacob Dehn (1-2, 4.10). ESPN3 will again carry live footage of the game with live stats also available. Links to both are up at ValpoAthletics.com.