Valpo scored nine runs from the sixth inning on Saturday as it rattled off a pair of come-from-behind wins in a doubleheader sweep of Milwaukee at Emory G. Bauer Field.
Senior starting pitcher Trevor Haas (Mount Prospect, Ill./Hersey) fired a 128-pitch complete game in the opener before Jake Hanson (Yorkville, Ill./Aurora Christian)'s two-run single capped off a 7-6 win in the second tilt.
The Panthers raced out to a 3-0 advantage thanks to a trio of fifth-inning runs that broke a scoreless tie.
Valpo broke into the run column in the sixth when the middle of the order came alive. Shea Molitor (Plymouth, Minn./West Lutheran [Des Moines Area CC]) sliced an opposite-field single that plated Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]). Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) pushed the score to 3-2 with a line-drive sacrifice fly to right.
Molitor came back to haunt the Panthers an inning later when he plugged the hole in the right side of the infield with a two-run single. Haas took care of his first lead of the afternoon by shutting down Milwaukee over the next two innings.
Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif./Chatsworth) rifled his first triple of the year in the eighth, scoring pinch-runner Patrick Donohue (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect) from second base to give Haas a larger cushion.
Haas coaxed a fly ball to center for the final out of the ninth to secure the senior his second career complete game in as many games. UWM reliever Jake Tuttle was saddled with the loss. Molitor finished the first game 2-for-3 with three RBIs while Shaikin contributed a 3-for-4 performance at the plate.
Valpo was forced to play from behind yet again to earn the sweep.
Milwaukee got ahead 2-0 in its half of the third, but the Crusaders answered back with three of their own in the bottom half. Molitor sent a Jay Peters offering through the left side for an RBI single before Dan Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]) followed that up with an opposite-field two-run single.
The Panthers clawed their way back in the fifth when the first three reached in the frame. Luke Meeteer singled home Billy Quirke to tie the game at 3-3. Meeteer later came around to score on an RBI ground out off the bat of Cole Heili that made it 5-3.
Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]) sliced the deficit in half in the sixth with a two-out knock to left-center field that brought in Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton) from second. Dawson helped himself into scoring position with his third stolen base of the season.
The Crusaders broke through in the seventh, and it all started with a leadoff error.
Molitor reached when Nick Unes couldn't corral a hard-hit ball to third base. He advanced to third after a Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) single and a walk to Shaikin. Hanson fouled off a couple of deliveries from UWM reliever Jared Reklaitis before he finally kept one fair inside the first-base line to score Palace and Molitor and give the Brown and Gold a 6-5 lead. The base hit chased Reklaitis in favor of right-hander Zach Brenner.
Valpo added an insurance run when Brenner's first offering eluded catcher Daulton Varsho and allowed Shaikin to race home and push the Crusader lead to 7-5.
That insurance tally came in handy when things got dicey in the eighth. After reliever Luke VanLanen (Pulaski, Wis./Pulaski) recorded the final out of the seventh, the sophomore walked the first two batters he met in the next inning. Ryan Fritze (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury [Des Moines Area CC]) issued a bases-loaded walk to Meeteer that cut it to a 7-6 affair.
Fritze wiggled out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts.
The Panthers assembled another charge in the ninth, but Fritze went back to the strikeout for the all-important 27th out. He earned his third save in the process while Valpo improved to 17-18 on the season, 10-5 in HL play. The second tilt required 3 hours and 31 minutes, the Crusaders' longest contest of the season, including their two extra innings.
Valpo will host Purdue North Central Monday afternoon at Emory G. Bauer Field at 3:00 pm. Links to the audio and live stats are posted at ValpoAthletics.com.