The Valparaiso Crusaders plated four runs in the latter innings of Thursday morning's contest against UIC, but it wasn't enough as the Flames hung on for an 8-5 win over the Brown and Gold at Oil City Stadium in Whiting, Indiana.
UIC's Tyler Detmer cranked two home runs in his first two at-bats as the top-seeded Flames jumped out to a 4-0 lead against Valpo starter Mario Losi (Anaheim, Calif./Canyon).
Senior Mark Johnson (Evanston, Ill./Evanston Township) got the Crusaders on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth.
Shea Molitor (Plymouth, Minn./West Lutheran [Des Moines Area CC]) opened the frame with a single off UIC lefty Jake Dahlberg. Freshman Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif./Woodbridge) legged out a fielder's choice in his subsequent plate appearance before going first-to-third on a Kyle Schneider (Mishawaka, Ind./Penn) opposite-field single. With one out and runners on the corners, Johnson sliced a sacrifice fly to left-center that brought Jacob home to cut the deficit to 4-1.
Four Flames crossed the plate in a damning sixth frame.
Losi walked the first batters in the innings before giving way to righty Trevor Haas (Mount Prospect, Ill./Hersey). David Cronin and Zenon Kolakowski recorded back-to-back RBI singles up the middle to push UIC's advantage to 6-1. The lead ballooned to 8-1 on a Jeff Boehm two-run double.
Valpo constructed a late rally, but Flame reliever Ryan Hinchley got UIC out of a sticky situation with a four-out save, his 10th save of the season.
Johnson drove in his second run of the day in the seventh with a two-bagger down the right-field line that scored Jacob. The Crusaders had two men in scoring position, but Dahlberg got Spencer Mahoney (La Grange Park, Ill./Lyons Township) swinging on strikes to limit the impending threat to one run.
The Crusaders kept the pedal to the medal in their half of the eighth. Jeff Edwards (Massillon, Ohio/Jackson), Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]), and Daniel Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]) all reached safely before Dahlberg recorded the first out.
Edwards touched home on a Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]) fielder's choice to the right side of the infield. The plot thickened when Molitor worked a walk to load the bases for bottom of the Brown and Gold order. Jacob came through for Valpo with a single through the right side that plated Lodden. Schneider stepped to the dish with the bases loaded and one out when he clobbered a hard-hit grounder that deflected off Mickey McDonald's glove and into left field. Clark raced around to trim the margin to 8-5.
Dahlberg registered the second out of the inning on a strikeout of Johnson. UIC skipper Mike Dee summoned Hinchley into the ballgame to face Mahoney, who represented the go-ahead run at the plate. Hinchley spun off a couple of sliders to catch the Valpo shortstop looking for the final out.
Valpo went down 1-2-3 in the ninth as UIC escaped with the three-run triumph.
Schneider had his fourth multi-hit game of the season thanks to his 2-for-3 day in the box. He added a walk and a run batted in to his stat sheet. Molitor tallied a 2-for-3 morning at the plate with a walk.
Valpo (22-30) will face Milwaukee (36-19) in an elimination contest at 7:00 p.m. CT at Oil City Stadium. Live video courtesy of ESPN3 in addition to live stats will be available. Links to both are up at ValpoAthletics.com.