Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC])'s two-run single in the top of the 10th inning provided the Valpo baseball team with its second win of the season. The senior's go-ahead knock masked a seven-spot in the visitor's error column as the Crusaders prevailed for a courageous 9-6 victory in extra innings, salvaging a series split with ULM.
"This was the best team win since I've taken over," head coach Brian Schmack said after the dizzying,
Valpo had just a 1-5 record to show for securing early leads after its first six games this season. So for a change of pace, the Brown and Gold played from behind in Wednesday's affair at Warhawk Field.
University of Louisiana Monroe had five men cross the plate in the home half of the second against Valpo freshman Montana Quigley (Lake Forest, Calif./El Toro). The first two got aboard via walk before escalating into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Blake Buckman plated Will Daniels, the first run, by virtue of an infield single. Another infield hit loaded the bases for Nathan Reynolds who made it 3-0 with a two-run base hit up the middle. Reynolds kept on going after an error on the Valpo center fielder allowed the Warhawk shortstop to occupy second base. Nathan Pugh kept the merry-go-round spinning for ULM when he split the Crusader outfielders with a two-run double to the left-center gap.
Dan Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]) got the Crusaders on the scoreboard in their next at-bat. The designated hitter sent an opposite-field double down the right-field line that brought in Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind./Andrean) and Lodden. Both Dawson and Lodden had reached with singles off ULM starter Josh Leone.
Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]) earned one of the easiest RBIs of his career in the top of the fifth when he watched ball four go by with the bases loaded. Clark's third walk of the season gave the outfielder his seventh RBI of the year once Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) applied his spikes to home plate.
Valpo gave the single tally right back in the bottom of the fifth. Daniels reached on a leadoff E4, and then moved up 180 feet on a pair of wild pitches. The first baseman came home to score after Josh Faciane lifted a Chet Joslyn (Battle Creek, Mich./Lakeview) offering to right field for a sac fly.
The local nine made it a two-run tilt in the sixth thanks to some two-out fun. Dawson logged his second of the day with a single to left. Palace followed suit with a two-bagger down the LF line. Dawson was held at third on the Palace extra-base hit, but raced home in the next sequence on a wild pitch. Dawson's run made it 6-4 after six innings.
Senior Trevor Haas (Mt. Prospect, Ill./Hersey) held down the fort on the mound, high-stepping threats in both the sixth and seventh frames. He stranded three in scoring position in two innings of work.
It was Valpo's turn to enjoy the perks of an E6 in its half of the eighth. With one out, Dawson arrived safely at first by virtue of a throwing error by Reynolds, the shortstop. Palace made Keegan Curtis and the Warhawks pay in the very next at-bat when the Valpo first baseman crushed an opposite-field home run to tie the game, 6-6.
Sophomore Luke VanLanen (Pulaski, Wis./Pulaski) was called upon to keep the ULM offense at bay. The closer did so, working around a leadoff single in the eighth.
Both teams traded goose eggs in the ninth before Lodden and the Crusaders turned the lights out in Monroe.
Freshman Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif./Chatsworth) greeted Curtis with a leadoff double to open the 10th. Dawson laid down a sacrifice bunt and subsequently reached when the throw to third wasn't in time to get Shaikin. Dawson moved up 90 feet after an offspeed delivery got away from ULM catcher Spencer Hemphill. With no outs and the infield drawn in, Palace sent a roller over to second base for the first out. Lodden provided the go-ahead knock with a single that split the right side of the infield. Two batters later, Clark supplied the Brown and Gold with an insurance run via a double that one-hopped the right-center field wall.
With VanLanen having already logged two innings in the ballgame and Bryce Yoder (Spencerville, Ind./Eastside) one day removed from two innings of work himself, starting pitcher Ryan Fritze (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury [Des Moines Area CC]) was asked to earn the save. The right-hander set down the first two batters without trouble, but a walk and an infield error brought the tying run to the dish in the form of Stockton. The outfielder, who went 3-for-4 with two runs batted in the day prior, flied out to left to end the game.
Valpo (2-6) maneuvered around seven errors in the field, six of which came in the infield. The Crusaders have now committed 24 miscues through their first eight games, yielding a .923 fielding percentage. The offense has done its part, though. Valpo owns a collective slugging percentage of .420 thanks to 29 extra-base hits. Palace is up to four home runs already.
Dawson, Palace, Lodden, and Delaney - the leadoff-through-cleanup spots in the batting order - combined for a 9-for-19 night at the plate with six runs scored and six runs batted in.
VanLanen was rewarded with the win for his two shutout innings of relief. The sophomore punched out a pair and walked one. Fritze boasted the save in his first relief appearance in a Crusader uniform. He'll return to his familiar role as starter Saturday at Louisiana Tech.
The Crusaders open a three-game series with the 6-2 Bulldogs Friday in Ruston. Lundeen (0-2, 8.44) will get the ball again in the opener. Links to the audio, video, and live stats are available at ValpoAthletics.com.