Shea Molitor (Plymouth, Minn./West Lutheran [Des Moines Area CC])'s ninth-inning grand slam ensured fellow senior Dalton Lundeen (Streamwood, Ill./Streamwood) would get the win on a day where the left-hander joined elite company. Lundeen became one of just four pitchers in program history to log 300 innings after tossing 6 2/3 IP in Valpo's 10-4 win over Oakland on Friday. Lundeen also took over sole possession of fourth place for most career wins (19).
Early on, the tilt appeared destined to be a tight, low-scoring affair. Lundeen needed just 19 pitches to acquire the first six outs.
Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]) gave his ace a lead after he singled home Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton), who set the table with an opposite-field double.
Lundeen cruised during an 11-pitch bottom of the third that vaulted him to 299 2/3 career innings. Before he grasped the 300-inning target, Oakland left fielder Zach Sterry crashed the party with a solo home run to left. Lundeen collected himself before coaxing a fly ball off the bat of Tyler Pagano to arrive at the elusive mark.
With one milestone in the rear-view mirror and another in the windshield, the Crusader offense cranked out four runs in their half of the fifth to put Lundeen in prime position for the win.
Oakland starting pitcher Joe Buchalski issued back-to-back walks to James Stea (Los Alamitos, Calif./Los Alamitos [Golden West]) and Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]) with one out. Clark drove in his second run of the day when a base hit to center brought in Stea. Molitor kept the line moving with a sac fly to right that extended the lead to 3-1. Dan Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]) put an exclamation point on the frame with a two-strike, two-out, two-run homer down the left-field line.
Valpo added an insurance run in the top of the sixth thanks to a Stea RBI double.
Oakland made a sizable dent in the five-run deficit in the home half of the sixth. Sterry, Pagano, and Ian Yetsko each recorded a run batted in as Lundeen entered the twilight of his day on the hill. He recovered to retire the first two Golden Grizzly batters in the seventh, but a walk to the ninth-place hitter forced head coach Brian Schmack to summon Luke VanLanen (Pulaski, Wis./Pulaski) into the game. VanLanen recorded the final out of the seventh via a strikeout.
VanLanen went on to work a 1-2-3 eighth to keep the two-run lead in the Crusader dugout.
Molitor put the win on ice with one swing of the bat in the ninth. Dawson and Clark got aboard via walks while Stea reached when a throwing error on his sacrifice bunt attempt went awry. Molitor smoked a 1-2 offering from Logan Sparkman well over the wall in left-center field for his first home run of the season. His five RBIs matched a season-high from February 21st.
Lundeen was awarded the win, the 19th of his career, to improve to 4-3.
Dawson was 2-for-3 with three runs scored while Stea assembled a 1-for-1 day with a walk, a run scored, and an RBI. Though Lodden did not tally a hit, the senior did collect three walks to extend his 18-game on-base streak.
Valpo (12-16, 6-3 Horizon) can clinch the series win Saturday at 1 pm ET/12 pm CT. Oakland (13-12, 4-3 Horizon) will send RHP Jake Lee (3-3, 4.55) to the mound to oppose Trevor Haas (1-1, 3.00). Links to the live stats are up at ValpoAthletics.com.