A late comeback, strong middle relief work and multi-hit games from three players were not enough for the Valparaiso University baseball team on Sunday afternoon. The Crusaders rallied from down three to tie the game at five, but Joe Genord belted a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to give USF a 6-5 victory and extend the Bulls’ winning streak to 14.
How It Happened
- The Bulls (15-1) got off to a strong start with a run in the bottom of the first inning. Duke Stunkel deflected a single off the glove of Valpo starting pitcher Grant Inman. That was USF’s third hit of the opening frame, and it allowed Luke Borders to trot across the dish for the first run of the contest.
- South Florida threatened in the second inning when Chris Chatfield spanked a leadoff double down the left field line, but Inman eventually worked out of the frame. USF stranded runners at second and third.
- A single up the middle by Scott Kapers, a bunt hit by Riley Dent and a hit by a pitch by James Stea loaded the bases for the Crusaders (6-8) with nobody out in the third. Chase Dawson’s fly ball to center for the first out wasn’t deep enough to score Kapers, but Jake Hanson came through with a single to right to tie the game at one.
- The Crusaders took the lead on a passed ball that allowed Dent to scamper home. With runners at second and third and one away, Nate Palace struck out swinging for the second out, then Sam Shaikin flied to center to end the frame with Valpo leading 2-1.
- South Florida stranded its fourth runner in scoring position in the first three innings in the third, as Luke Borders drew a leadoff walk and made his way to third before Inman induced a Stunkel fly out to end the frame.
- The Bulls drew even in the bottom of the fourth as Garrett Zech stole second and scored on a single by Kevin Merrell. Merrell then swiped second, setting up a go-ahead base knock by Coco Montes.
- Luke Borders followed the Montes single with a two-run bomb to boost South Florida’s lead to 5-2.
- Valpo battled back by scoring a pair in the fifth. Palace rolled a seeing-eye single that scored Dawson, then Hanson crossed the dish as Steven Fitzsimmons drew a bases-loaded walk that made it 5-4. Kapers flied out to end the inning, stranding the bases juiced.
- After two shutout frames from Jon Tieman out of the Valpo bullpen kept it close, Ellis Foreman flipped a scoreless seventh to keep it 5-4 Bulls.
- The top of the eighth inning got off to a modest start for the Crusaders with two outs and nobody on base. Head coach Brian Schmack sent Giovanni Garbella to the dish as a pinch batter, and he ripped a two-out single. Garbella then swiped second, setting up a run-scoring single up the middle by Stea that leveled the score at five.
- Rhodehouse came on to get a huge out in the bottom of the eighth, as he was asked to spell Foreman with two outs and two on and worked out of the frame.
- Genord’s walk-off blast against Rhodehouse came to lead off the bottom of the ninth.
Inside the Game
- Hanson, who was batting cleanup for the first time this year, picked up his sixth RBI, which is tied for third on the team. Stea moved into sole possession of second on the squad with his seventh RBI, while Palace became the first Crusader to reach 10 runs driven in.
- The Crusaders got into the USF bullpen in the fourth inning as starter Peter Strzelecki was lifted after three frames and received no decision. He was charged with two runs (one earned) on three hits and one walk while striking out four. Andrew Perez (2-0) eventually became the winning pitcher in relief.
- Palace’s fifth-inning single was his first hit of the series. He entered the weekend as Valpo’s leading hitter, but went 0-for-9 to start the set before that run-scoring knock.
- Hanson enjoyed his second multi-hit game of the season, while Kapers earned his first multi-hit game of the year and the seventh of his Valpo career. Stea’s multi-hit performance was his third of 2017.
- Stea has reached base in 13 straight and 27 of his last 28 dating back to last year.
- The Crusaders drop to 0-4 in one-run games this season.
- Rhodehouse (2-1) suffered the loss after allowing the one run on one hit in 1/3 of an inning. It was the first earned run coughed up by Rhodehouse all season.
- The Crusaders banged out 10 hits, but left eight on base. The Bulls racked up 15 hits and stranded 10.
The Crusaders will begin Horizon League play against defending league champion and preseason favorite Wright State on Friday. Game 1 of the three-game set in Dayton, Ohio will get underway at 5:30 p.m. CT. The game can be seen on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app. In addition, David Horak and Brandon Vickrey will have the hometown radio call. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.