Sophomore Grant Inman hurled five solid innings, senior Nate Palace launched his first home run of 2017 and freshman Jon Tieman nailed down his first career save as the Valparaiso University baseball team defeated Western Kentucky 5-2 on Sunday afternoon at Nick Denes Field in Bowling Green, Ky. The win marked the first of the season for the Crusaders.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders (1-2) manufactured a run in the first inning when James Stea was hit by a pitch to start the game, advanced to second on a fielder’s choice bouncer by Chad Jacob, stole third and scored when Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif. / Oaks Christian) lifted a sacrifice fly to left center.
- Grant Inman (Fort Wayne, Ind. / Carroll) faced an immediate jam in the bottom of the first inning when the first two batters reached base. He bounced back to retire the next three in order and escape unscathed.
- The Hilltoppers (2-1) mounted another threat in the third, but left two more stranded. They again put together a quality chance in the fourth, but left runners at first and third.
- Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean) singled up the middle with one away in the fifth, before Stea was once again hit by a pitch. Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) lashed a single through the right side, boosting the Crusader lead to 2-0. A moment later Palace stroked a single to left, notching his second RBI of the day.
- Inman served up a leadoff double in the bottom of the fifth, but again worked his way out of the jam.
- Freshman Steven Fitzsimmons (Golden Valley, Minn. / Robbinsdale Cooper) ripped the first triple of his Crusader career to lead off the top of the sixth. That turned into an insurance run moments later, when Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mt. Carmel) pulled a run-scoring single to make it 4-0.
- Inman came back out to start the sixth inning, but allowed a string of three straight singles and departed with the bases loaded and nobody out. Freshman Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland) succeeded in minimizing the damage, as he gave up a two-run single to Colie Currie that sliced the lead in half, but retired the side without further scoring.
- The Crusaders had a quick response in the seventh, when Palace drilled his first home run of the season to make it 5-2.
- Rhodehouse came back out for the seventh and sent down the side in order. He issued a walk but no runs in the eighth to complete a strong relief appearance.
- Freshman Jon Tieman (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge) was summoned from the Valpo bullpen for the ninth inning. He worked an easy 1-2-3 inning to nail down his first career save.
Inside the Game
- Rhodehouse yielded just one hit over three scoreless innings out of the bullpen while walking one and striking out four in his collegiate debut. Two runs scored while he was in the game, but they were charged to Inman.
- Inman scattered eight hits and yielded two runs (two earned) while walking two and striking out one in five innings. He received the victory, while Western Kentucky starter Paul Kirkpatrick (4 1/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO) was hit with the defeat.
- Palace went 2-for-2 with three runs batted in, while Jacob (2-for-5) and Dawson (2-for-3) also enjoyed multi-hit performances.
- Palace had his first three RBI game of the season after enjoying five such performances a year ago. His home run was his first since May 15 of last year against Oakland.
The Crusaders will hit the road again next week as they travel to Birmingham, Ala. for a three-game series with UAB. The first game of the series is Friday, Feb. 24 starting at 4 p.m. Central Time. Coverage links will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.