The Valparaiso University baseball team entered Friday in a select group of NCAA teams that had not committed an error yet this season, but two miscues in the sixth inning led to two unearned insurance tallies in an eventual 5-1 loss to UAB. The Crusaders (1-3) grabbed an early lead, but their bats were stymied for the rest of the day by UAB (4-1) starter Garrett Whitlock, who went the distance.
How It Happened
- Valpo was sent down in order in the first, but had a quality scoring chance in the second after Nate Palace (West Lake Village, Calif. / Oaks Christian) started the frame with a double. That threat disappeared when Palace tagged and tried to score on a fly ball to right field by Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth). The Valpo first baseman was cut down at the dish to end the inning.
- The Crusaders scored first for the third time in four games when James Stea (Los Alamitos, Calif. / Los Alamitos [Golden West]) ripped a two-out double to left in the third, plating Steven Fitzsimmons (Golden Valley, Minn. / Robbinsdale Cooper), who had singled through left side to start the inning.
- After a smooth first three frames, Valpo starter Mario Losi (Anaheim, Calif. / Canyon) was touched for a run in the fourth. A leadoff walk came back to harm the right-hander, as Brewer Hicklen walked to start the inning, followed by a single and a fielder’s choice. An infielder grounder by Thomas Johns drove in a run, allowing the Blazers to level the score at one.
- The next time Valpo moved a man into scoring position was the sixth, when Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) cracked a one-out double to left. Well aware that Palace entered the weekend second in the nation in batting average, the Blazers awarded him an intentional walk with two outs and first base open. The move paid dividends as pinch hitter Patrick Donohue (Arlington Heights, Ill. / Prospect) flew out to left to end the inning.
- The Blazers’ big inning was the sixth, as they racked up four runs, two of which were unearned. Valpo made two errors on one play, one by Losi and one by Jacob. It appeared Losi would limit the damage to two runs as he struck out the next two hitters, but Riley McCown ripped a run-scoring double and Carter Pharis followed with a single to boost the Blazers’ lead to 5-1.
- That led to the end of Losi’s day, as Ellis Foreman (Round Rock, Texas / Stony Point) came on and got the final out of the sixth.
- The Crusaders couldn’t get anything going offensively over the final three innings. Whitlock sent down the last 10 Valpo hitters to round out the complete game.
Inside the Game
- Losi was hit with the loss, becoming the first Valpo starter to absorb a defeat this season. He allowed five runs (three earned) on five hits and one walk in 5 2/3 innings.
- Foreman remained strong in relief, retiring all four men he faced.
- Freshman James Meyer (Zionsville, Ind. / Zionsville Community) walked a pair in his collegiate debut and retired one batter. Montana Quigley (Lake Forest, Calif. / El Toro) came in to clean things up, getting the final two outs of the eighth.
- Whitlock, the reigning Conference USA Pitcher of the Week, made himself a strong candidate to repeat that award by yielding just one run (earned) on five hits and one walk while striking out five in a complete-game victory. He now stands at 2-0 this season.
- Stea’s hit was much needed, as it marked his second of the season and his first run driven in.
- Fitzsimmons, a freshman who has a hit in all four games this year, enjoyed his first two-hit day. He was the only Crusader to register multiple hits.
- Conversely, this was the first time this season that Palace didn’t have a multi-hit performance. He did have a walk to go along with his 1-for-3 output at the dish.
- The Blazers totaled just five hits and didn’t have anyone with more than one.
The Crusaders will continue the series on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT as Wes Gordon takes the mound against lefty Ryan Ruggles. Live video is available for this series courtesy of UAB Athletics, but a subscription is required. Links to live video and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.