Senior Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]) tomahawked two hits, scored a run, and drove another in on Saturday, but a three-run bottom of the third proved pivotal in a 5-3 loss to New Orleans.
The Crusaders posted a run in the first inning for the third time in five games. Clark singled home Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]) on the first pitch he saw from UNO starter Riley Hodge. Lodden had reached on an infield error.
New Orleans made amends for the tally it spotted Valpo in its half of the first.
Second baseman Sam Capielano got aboard with a one-out single before he moved up 90 feet on a stolen base. Crusader starting pitcher Ryan Fritze (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury [Des Moines Area CC]) issued a walk to Dakota Dean, the three-hole hitter, before surrendering an RBI knock to Aaron Palmer.
Fritze avoided any further damage in the frame, stranding the bases loaded.
The senior right-hander wasn't able to wiggle his way out of a jam in the third. He retired the leadoff man before the next four Privateer batters went walk, single, single, double to take a 3-1 lead. Hezekiah Randolph made it 4-1 in the next at-bat when Jay Robinson sent a sac fly into foul territory down the right field line.
Once armed with the three-run edge, Hodge set down nine of the next ten Crusaders he faced. A one-out single by Lodden was the righty's lone blemish in the middle innings.
Valpo got to within one run after plating a pair. Clark got things rolling with a leadoff walk. Shea Molitor (Plymouth, Minn./West Lutheran [Des Moines Area CC]) cracked a double into the right-center field gap that allowed Clark to race around and score. The two-bagger was Valpo's lone extra-base hit of the afternoon.
Freshman Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif./Chatsworth) got the job done, advancing Molitor to third base on a ground out. That proved crucial when freshman Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind./Mt. Carmel) sent a roller to short that brought home Molitor from third.
The Crusaders had a chance to tie it in the eighth when they had two on and two out. Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) loitered in scoring position after Clark's second hit of the day sent the first baseman to second. However, Jarred Taylor coaxed an inning-ending ground ball off the bat of Molitor to preserve the one-run lead.
Ryan Calloway supplied New Orleans with an insurance run in the home half of the eighth with an RBI ground out.
Valpo brought the tying run to the plate in the top of the ninth with two outs, but UNO closer Daniel Martinez shut the door for his third save of the season.
Trevor Haas (Mt. Prospect, Ill./Hersey) took over for Fritze in the fifth inning. The senior yielded just one hit in 3 1/3 innings of relief. Haas punched out two batters and walked a pair. Chet Joslyn (Battle Creek, Mich./Lakeview) secured the final two outs without harm.
Valpo (1-4) will close out the series Sunday afternoon at 1 pm CT. Junior Mario Losi (Anaheim, Calif./Canyon) will attempt to move to 2-0 on the season when he opposes lefty Jordan Priddle. Priddle also enters Sunday's contest with a 1-0 record. Links to the audio, pay video, and live stats are available at ValpoAthletics.com.