Valpo had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the ninth when UIC reliever Trevor Lane uncorked a wild pitch allowing James Stea (Los Alamitos, Calif./Los Alamitos [Golden West]) to hightail it home for a 2-1 victory Friday at Emory G. Bauer Field.
Neither team managed a hit with runners in scoring position as pitching and defense were the specials du jour.
Dalton Lundeen (Streamwood, Ill./Streamwood) zipped through the first six innings. He retired the first 17 batters UIC sent to the plate. Catcher Wyatt Mascarella sent the first pitch of his sixth-inning at-bat through the right side for a clean single, the Flames' first of the afternoon.
Shea Molitor (Plymouth, Minn./West Lutheran [Des Moines Area CC])'s 42nd RBI of the season gave Valpo a 1-0 lead in the fifth. He bounced into a fielder's choice that allowed Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton) to cross the plate.
However, the Crusaders saw their one-run edge evaporate in the visitor's half of the seventh. Lundeen issued a bases-loaded walk to Gabe Dwyer that forced in Brandon Gibis. Senior Bryce Yoder (Spencerville, Ind./Eastside) got Cody Bohanek swinging on strikes to end the threat as the Flames stranded three in the frame.
Lundeen's final line read: 6 2/3 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 7 K. 61 of his 89 pitches were strikes. He's now up to 317 innings pitched at Valpo, the second most in program history. He surpassed Tyler Deetjen (311.1) and Harvey Yergin (314.2) Friday.
It remained a 1-1 tilt until the bottom of the ninth. Stea got things rolling when he took an inside fastball off the arm. With the hit-and-run employed, Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]) shot a single through the right side that sent Stea to third base. The knock extended his on-base streak to 28 games. UIC then intentionally walked Molitor to load the bases for pinch-hitter Jake Hanson (Yorkville, Ill./Aurora Christian).
Hanson didn't need to lift the bat off his shoulder as Lane's 1-2 offering eluded Mascarella and traveled to the backstop. Stea scrammed home to notch the walk-off victory.
Ryan Fritze (Woodbury, Minn./Woodbury [Des Moines Area CC]) received the win after he fired a scoreless top of the ninth. Valpo pitchers racked up 10 strikeouts on the afternoon opposite two walks.
Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]) smacked a game-high two hits to lift his average to .327.
Valpo (20-18, 11-5 Horizon) took a two-game lead over UIC (17-23, 9-7 Horizon) with the 2-1 triumph. The Crusaders and Flames will resume their series Saturday at 1 pm CT. Stay tuned to ValpoAthletics.com and follow @ValpoBaseball for any potential adjustments. WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) will have the call with live stats also available.