The Valparaiso University baseball team bounced back from a Game 1 defeat to split Friday’s doubleheader with a 4-2 win over UIC in Game 2 at Granderson Stadium in Chicago. The Flames held on for a 10-7 win in Game 1 as the Crusaders rallied for six unanswered runs but came up short. The win in the nightcap allowed Valpo (8-12, 1-4 Horizon) to notch its first league win of the season.
How It Happened – Game 1
- Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif. / Oaks Christian) picked up right where he left off on Tuesday night, lifting an opposite-field home run against UIC ace Jake Dahlberg to put the Crusaders on the board in the opening inning on a hitters’ day in the Windy City.
- The Flames (12-7, 4-1 Horizon) had a quick answer as they strung together three consecutive one-out singles in the bottom of the first against Valpo starting pitcher Mario Losi (Anaheim, Calif. / Canyon). The third hit in that sequence was a sharp single to left that allowed Cody Bohanek to score the tying run.
- Dahlberg issued back-to-back walks in the second, presenting the Crusaders with a bases-loaded, one-out chance. Dahlberg induced an infield fly and a fly ball to center to retire the side as Valpo stranded the maximum.
- Rob Calabrese cracked a fly ball that carried over the left-field fence for a solo home run, allowing UIC to grab a 2-1 lead in the second inning.
- With the bases loaded and nobody out in the second, Bohanek lifted a sacrifice fly to center, driving in Brandon Gibis.
- Scott Ota expanded UIC’s lead to six by cracking a grand slam with one out in the second. The three runners on base for the big fly all reached via free passes – two walks and a hit batter.
- The Flames tacked on a third-inning run against Valpo reliever Jake Larson (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) as Ota added his fifth RBI of the game by lifting a sacrifice fly.
- Palace picked up his second RBI of the afternoon on a 6-3 bouncer in the fifth that plated Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean). Dawson had reached on a hit by pitch and scampered to third on a double by James Stea (Los Alamitos, Calif. / Los Alamitos [Golden West].
- Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mt. Carmel) split the gap in right center with a one-out double in the sixth, driving in Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) to make it 10-3. The Kapers double was the first of three two-baggers in the frame for the Crusaders, who scored four times to shrink UIC’s lead to four.
- Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge), playing for the first time since March 10 and returning from injury, ripped a double down the right-field line in the sixth to drive in a pair. Jacob eventually crossed the dish on a hot shot off the bat of Stea down the third-base line.
- The Crusaders had a chance for more in the sixth with runners at second and third and one away, but they could do no further damage. Freshman Christian Barczi (Naperville, Ill. / Naperville North) was utilized as a pinch hitter with two outs, but was retired on a sharp line drive to third. Barczi, also coming off an injury, made his first appearance since Feb. 26.
- Kapers connected on his third hit of the game in the seventh, a single to score Shaikin and whittle UIC’s lead to three at 10-7. Valpo had a chance for more with the bases loaded and one away, but stranded the bags full for the second time in the game.
- The Crusaders put together a two-out rally in the eighth, but came away with nothing to show for it as they left the bases full for the second straight inning. Patrick Donohue (Arlington Heights, Ill. / Prospect) worked the count, but bounced to second on a 3-2 pitch. Valpo stranded eight on base in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings combined.
- Valpo went down in order in the ninth as the Flames fended off the rally. The Crusaders scored the final six runs of the game.
Inside Game 1
- Palace’s home run was his third in a two-game span and his sixth of the season. He launched a first-inning big fly for the second consecutive game.
- Kapers enjoyed his third multi-hit performance of the season and lifted his RBI total to eight. He also had two hits on Tuesday, making it back-to-back games with multiple hits after having just one multi-hit performance in his first 16 games of the season. It was his first three-hit game of the season and the second of his collegiate career.
- Shaikin had two hits for his fourth multi-hit game of the year, while Stea enjoyed his fourth multi-hit performance. Stea doubled twice and drove in a run for the Crusaders.
- Losi’s outing ended after 1 1/3 innings. He was charged with seven earned runs on six hits and walked two. Losi was hit with the defeat to drop to 0-3 on the season.
- Dahlberg went 5 1/3 innings and yielded five runs on four hits while walking three and striking out two. He picked up the win to improve to 3-1.
- Larson worked 4 2/3 innings and allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits out of the Valpo bullpen while issuing one walk and striking out one. Montana Quigley (Lake Forest, Calif. / El Toro) kept the Crusaders in the game with two scoreless innings in relief.
- Alex Padilla worked the final 2 2/3 innings for the Flames and was credited with the save, his first of the season.
How It Happened – Game 2
- Valpo starting pitcher Wes Gordon (Waukegan, Ill. / Warren [Lake County]) worked in and out of trouble over the first four frames. After sending the side down in order in the first, he allowed a runner to reach scoring position in the second, third and fourth, but all runners were stranded. UIC’s best chance was the bottom of the fourth, when an error by the Crusaders allowed runners to move up to second and third with one away, but Gordon wiggled out of the inning with the shutout still intact.
- The first real Valpo threat of the game came in the fifth inning when the Crusaders had runners at second and third with one away following a Stea double. A Valpo runner was picked off third by the UIC catcher for the second out, but Jacob came through with two outs in a big way by launching a two-run homer.
- Following the home run, UIC pitching allowed four straight free passes. Reliever Noah Masa walked Shaikin with the bags full to force in a run and make it 3-0 Valpo in the fifth.
- The Flames had runners at first and second with two down in the fifth, but Valpo got out of the inning as Kapers cut down a runner who was attempting to steal third.
- UIC got on the board on a slow roller on the infield by Matt Botcher that went for a two-out, run-scoring single in the sixth.
- The Flames trimmed the lead to one in the seventh as Scott Ota legged out a two-out infield single to drive in Bohanek. Ota was ruled safe on a close play at first.
- Valpo got the run right back when Shaikin spanked a double to start the eighth and eventually scored on a two-out single by Dawson.
Inside Game 2
- Jacob’s home run was his second of the season and the second of his three-year Valpo career. He has started two games since Feb. 26 while battling an injury (March 10 and Saturday’s second game) and has homered in both.
- Shaikin’s bases loaded walk helped him earn his fifth RBI of the year. Dawson picked up his seventh run batted in.
- The Crusaders chased UIC starter Reid Birlingmair after 4 2/3 innings. He was charged with three earned runs on five hits while issuing four walks and hitting a batter. Birlingmair was hit with the defeat to drop to 2-1.
- Gordon departed after six strong innings during which he allowed one run (earned) while scattering nine hits. He did not issue any walks and fanned two. Gordon (1-3) was the winning pitcher, his first victory in a Valpo uniform.
- Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert Ariz. / Highland) was strong in relief, limiting the Flames to one run on two hits in two innings.
- Freshman Jon Tieman (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge) nailed down his fifth save of the season by working a scoreless ninth.
- Stea, Palace and Shaikin had two hits apiece in Game 2.
The Crusaders and Flames will play Game 3 of the series on Sunday at 12:05 p.m. There will be no game on Saturday due to an unfavorable weather forecast. Links to live audio and stats for Sunday’s game will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.