With the clock reading 7:31 pm local time and the sun setting on a rustic Emory G. Bauer Field, Jeff Edwards cracked an opposite-field, 13th-inning single to score Giovanni Garbella (San Diego, Calif./Cathedral Catholic) and break a 7-7 tie. The 8-7 victory came after nearly four-and-a-half hours of baseball and rewarded Jason Condit (Putnam, Ill./Henry-Senachwine [Illinois Central College]) with his second win of the season following two scoreless innings of relief.
The Crusaders overcame a grim weather forecast, twilight, four errors, seven hit batters, and 17 stranded runners to collect their 19th win of the season.
Daniel Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]) gave the Brown and Gold a first-inning lead with a single through the right side that scored Spencer Mahoney (La Grange Park, Ill./Lyons Township), who led off the frame with his 130th career walk. Dustin Beasley (Round Rock, Texas/Stony Point [Cisco]), the next batter, took a four-pitch walk. Bronco skipper Billy Gernon wasted no time in going to his bullpen as he summoned lefty Jacob Piechota into the game after starter Josh Bays recorded just one out. Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]), who had reached on a fielding error, touched home on a Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]) sac fly to make it 2-0.
Western Michigan got on the scoreboard in a clumsy top of the third via an unearned tally. Center fielder Beau Filkins reached base by virtue of a fielding error at shortstop before scoring on a grounder that got between the legs of the Crusader second baseman.
The Broncos flipped a one-run deficit into a one-run advantage in the fourth. Tanner Allison plated first baseman Jared Kujawa with a single up the middle for the first run of the inning. Shortstop Nick Vogelmeier sent a Connor Kaucic (Chardon, Ohio/Notre Dame Cathedral Latin) delivery to a similar spot in the middle of the diamond that enabled Allison to score all the way from second base.
Valpo answered with a two-spot of its own in the bottom half of the fourth. Mark Johnson (Evanston, Ill./Evanston Township) was hit by a Will Nimke offering to open the frame. He went first-to-third on a Mahoney base hit to right. Edwards laid down a well-executed safety squeeze to score the Crusader center fielder. Mahoney, who advanced to second on Edwards' bunt, crossed the plate on a Lodden RBI single to left-center.
Both teams traded zeroes in the fifth. Drew Hasler (South Bend, Ind./Mishawaka Marian) retired the Broncos in order in his first inning of work in relief of Kaucic. Kaucic allowed just two earned runs on three hits in four innings of work. The freshman struck out two and did not walk a batter.
The Crusaders saw their second lead evaporate in the sixth. With two outs already on the board, Allison got aboard thanks to another infield miscue. The blunder - Valpo's fourth on the afternoon - allowed Kujawa to score to tie the game at 4-4.
The Broncos hopped on top 6-4 in their half of the seventh. Valpo pitchers recorded three of its seven hit-by-pitches in the disheveled frame. Hasler caught Jordan Tillman, the leadoff man, with a 2-1 pitch. The HBP ended Hasler's day and made way for fellow reliever Trevor Haas (Mount Prospect, Ill./Hersey). Haas yielded a single before plunking third baseman Grant Miller to load the bases with nobody out.
After recording the first out of the inning on a force-out at home plate, Haas hit Kujawa to plate Miller. Designated hitter Mitchell Ho followed with a sac fly to center to provide a two-run cushion.
The Brown and Gold bended but never broke, commandeering their third lead of the afternoon in the bottom of the seventh.
A two-run double off the bat of Clark represented a turning point in the game as Lodden and Delaney crossed the plate to tie the game at 6-6. With Clark on third base with two outs, WMU closer Gabe Berman spiked a payoff pitch to Ray Bartolomucci (Concord, Calif./De La Salle) that scurried far enough away from catcher Brett Sunde to allow the Valpo left fielder to race home and give the home team at 7-6 lead.
As was the case all day, the lead did not last long. Western Michigan tied the game in the top of the eighth, an inning that saw another three Broncos wear pitches. Bryce Yoder (Spencerville, Ind./Eastside) was called upon to get a four-out save, but he beaned the first two batters he faced. The second came with the bases loaded and forced in a run from third.
Neither club was able to manage a run from the 9th-12th innings. The Crusaders saw a golden opportunity go by in the 12th when they had the bases loaded with one out. Weekend starter Derek Schneider induced an infield pop-up from Beasley before retiring Clark on strikes to end a jittery 11-pitch at-bat.
Jake Bartels took over for Schneider in the 13th. He issued a one-out walk to Bartolomucci. The Crusader backstop advanced into scoring position on a Mark Johnson sacrifice bunt. Sensing the game being called a tie due to darkness if his team didn't score, head coach Brian Schmack supplanted Bartolomucci for Garbella on the basepaths. That move proved to be priceless as Garbella narrowly beat the throw home on Edwards' walk-off single.
The 13-inning tilt is the longest played at Emory G. Bauer Field since May 14th, 2006 when the Crusaders and Chicago State Cougars went 14 innings.
Mahoney registered a game-high four hits as his average rocketed to .362. Edwards (2-for-5), Lodden (3-for-5), Delaney (3-for-6), Clark (2-for-6), and freshman Chad Jacob (3-for-7) all enjoyed multi-hit contests.
The Crusader bullpen surrendered just three earned runs over nine innings. Yoder, Ben Mahar (Mundelein, Ill./Mundelein), and Condit combined to fire 5 1/3 shutout innings.
Valpo (19-24, 13-10 Horizon) will have a couple of days to prepare for its three-game series with Youngstown State (15-27, 8-16 Horizon) slated for this weekend. First pitch from Emory G. Bauer Field is set for 3:00 p.m. CT on Friday. The Crusaders will celebrate Senior Day the following day at 12:00 p.m. CT. WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) will have the call with live stats also available. Links to both are at ValpoAthletics.com.