Valpo took a 5-3 lead into the seventh inning of their second-round contest against Milwaukee before the Panthers put together a five-run frame. The Crusaders fell 9-6 Thursday afternoon to set up an elimination game with the fourth-seeded UIC Flames on Thursday evening.
Nolan Lodden (West Des Moines, Iowa/West Des Moines Valley [Heartland CC]) and Dan Delaney (Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks [Fresno State]) paced the Valpo offense with three hits apiece. Lodden racked up three RBIs while Delaney scored two runs.
Milwaukee center fielder Luke Meeteer put the Panthers on top in the first when he hooked a two-run double into the left-field corner.
Trevor Haas (Mount Prospect, Ill./Hersey) settled in nicely after the home half of the first. The senior retired nine batters in a row at one point while the offense went to work against Brian Keller, the Horizon League Pitcher of the Year.
Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind./Andrean) took the first pitch of the third inning off the kneecap, a hit-by-pitch that marked the fifth straight plate appearance in which he reached base. He went to first-to-third on a James Stea (Los Alamitos, Calif./Los Alamitos [Golden West]) double to right. Lodden traded places with his fellow outfielder after he deposited a double of his own down the left-field line. Lodden advanced to third base on a ground ball to the left side of the infield before coming in to score on an RBI ground out off the bat of Josh Clark (Granada Hills, Calif./Hillcrest Christian [Riverside City]).
Valpo added to its one-run lead in the top of the fourth thanks to a run-scoring single from Dawson. Delaney opened the frame with a base hit and moved up 90 feet on a Jeff Edwards' (Massillon, Ohio/Jackson) bunt. Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind./Mt. Carmel) kept the line moving by legging out an infield single. The hit brought Dawson to the dish where he lined a one-out single to center.
Milwaukee got one run back in the fifth when Daulton Varsho sent a two-out double off the wall in left that scored Billy Quirke.
The Crusaders built their cushion back to two runs in their subsequent at-bat. Lodden collected his third RBI of the afternoon on a bases-loaded single through the right side. Keller worked out of the jam after inducing a ground out as Valpo stranded three.
Varsho flipped a 5-3 Milwaukee deficit into a 6-5 lead with one swing of the bat in the seventh. Quirke and Chris Kelly were aboard ahead of the Panther catcher when he lifted a three-run homer to left. UWM added two more in the inning to expand its lead to 8-5.
The Valpo offense kept chipping away as it pushed a run across in the eighth. Stea sent a laser to the gap in left-center that went for an RBI double. What should have been an inning-ending ground out to second base turned into an E4 which loaded the bases and extended the frame. Panther reliever Jake Tuttle escaped the jam, though, with a strikeout.
UWM responded with an insurance tally in the eighth before Tuttle worked a 1-2-3 ninth to seal the 9-6 win for Milwaukee.
The Crusaders stranded 11 total on the afternoon. Stea registered two doubles, a run scored, and an RBI atop the Valpo lineup.
Valpo (28-27) will now face UIC in an elimination game Thursday at 7:00 pm ET/6:00 pm CT. ESPN3 will carry live coverage with live stats also available. The links are posted at ValpoAthletics.com.