With a 5-0 lead entering the fifth inning, Valpo was closing in on a sweep of Milwaukee at Kapco Park in Mequon, Wisconsin on Sunday. However, the Panthers rallied to seize a 6-5 win in the nightcap. Dalton Lundeen (Streamwood, Ill./Streamwood) limited the Panthers to just one earned run over eight innings to notch his third win of the season in the first game while Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]) had a 6-for-10 day at the plate with a solo blast and five RBIs. The Crusaders won the opener, 7-3.
Clark entered the day with a .319 batting average, but left Mequon with a .347 mark following his show-stealing performance in the batter's box.
He greeted UWM reliever Jay Peters with a no-doubt moonshot to right field that broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth of the first game. Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]) and Clark later added two-out RBI singles in the visitor's half of the seventh to give Lundeen some breathing room. Lundeen didn't need it, though, as we was locked in after spotting Milwaukee a pair of unearned runs in the fourth. The left-hander worked around singles in the seventh and eighth innings to secure the 7-3 win. He punched out eight Panthers in eight innings without issuing a walk. Milwaukee's lone earned run came off a Luke Meeteer solo homer.
Bryce Yoder (Spencerville, Ind./Eastside) recorded a perfect ninth in the non-save situation. Dan Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]) clubbed his third round-tripper of the season in the top of the eighth. He was 2-for-5 with two runs scored and a run batted in. Clark finished a triple shy of the cycle as he drove in two runs and scored one himself. Lodden joined his fellow outfielder with three hits. Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind./Andrean) and James Stea (Los Alamitos, Calif./Los Alamitos [Golden West]) both tallied two hits and two walks apiece.
The offensive outpouring continued for the Crusaders in the onset of the second game. Valpo replaced a zero in the first-inning run column for the 11th time in 24 games when Shea Molitor (Plymouth, Wis./West Lutheran [Des Moines Area CC]) and Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) corked run-scoring hits. Clark got things started with a one-out triple into the right-field corner. He pranced home on the next sequence when Molitor sliced an opposite-field single down the line for the first Crusader run. Molitor scooted up into scoring position on a Delaney ground out before he touched home on a Palace knock to center.
Clark continued his assault of Milwaukee pitching an inning later when he sent a two-strike, two-out offering from Adam Reuss into left field for a two-run single.
It was Clark yet again in the top of the fourth who plated Dawson from third with an infield single. Clark legged out a bouncer between the first and second baseman for his sixth hit of the day and his 18th RBI of the 2016 campaign. Valpo led 5-0 after three-and-a-half innings.
Trevor Haas (Mount Prospect, Ill./Hersey) navigated through four innings of shutout ball before the Panthers deleted the five-run deficit. UWM second baseman Billy Quirke got the home team on the board with a two-run double. Two batters later, Meeteer tied the game with one swing when he sent a three-run shot over the wall in left-center.
It stayed a 5-5 contest until the ninth when Milwaukee managed a run off sophomore Luke VanLanen (Pulaski, Wis./Pulaski). The first two Panthers reached via singles. A pair of stolen bases advanced Eric Solberg and Dan Barwick to second and third, respectively. VanLanen got Quirke swinging on strikes for the first out. The Crusaders issued an intentional pass to catcher Daulton Varsho to load the bases and create a force play at home.
Ryan Fritze (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury [Des Moines Area CC]) was called upon to get the strike out, but Meeteer lifted the first pitch he saw to medium-depth center field for a walk-off single.
Clark and Molitor both had 3-for-5 showings at the plate in the second game. Dawson drew two walks and later came around to score on both. Stea and Palace both turned in 2-for-3 tilts.
Valpo (9-15, 5-3 Horizon) will face a pair of battle-tested foes this upcoming midweek. Illinois State will visit Emory G. Bauer Field on Tuesday at 3:00 pm before the Crusaders travel to Notre Dame to face the Fighting Irish at Eck Stadium on Wednesday evening. The 15-11 Irish are winners of seven of their last eight contests. That game is slated to get underway at 6:05 pm ET/5:05 pm CT on Wednesday. Links to the audio and live stats will be available for both at ValpoAthletics.com.