One swing of the bat from senior James Stea (Los Alamitos, Calif. / Los Alamitos [Golden West]) altered the complexion of Thursday’s series opener between the Valparaiso University baseball team and visiting Oakland. The Grizzlies played long ball early to build the lead, but it was Stea’s big fly that mattered most as his eighth-inning shot over the left-field fence put the Crusaders up 7-6, a lead they did not relinquish.
How It Happened
- Emerson Misch, who started his collegiate career at Valpo, delivered the first blow of the game against his former team. He hit a two-run homer against Mario Losi (Anaheim, Calif. / Canyon) in the top of the third to give Oakland (4-26, 2-8 Horizon) the lead.
- Tyler Trovinger homered to left with one away in the third. Zach Sterry, who had walked earlier in the inning, was thrown out by catcher Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) attempting to swipe second, a throw that proved to save the Crusaders an important run.
- Jake Hanson (Yorkville, Ill. / Aurora Christian) banged a double off the left-field fence in the fifth, plating Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) and Kapers, both of whom had singled. That allowed Valpo (13-18, 4-6 Horizon) to trim the deficit to one at 3-2.
- Sterry ripped a two-out double in the sixth, and a home run by Tyler Pagano followed.
- Matt Dileo doubled to start the seventh, but was eventually picked off third on a snap throw by Kapers.
- Jacob laced a two-out double down the left-field line in the seventh, but was stranded at second.
- Sterry’s RBI double in the top of the eighth boosted Oakland’s lead to four at 6-2.
- Christian Barczi flied to left to begin the eighth, and the Crusaders had just five outs left to work with, down by four. Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) singled to left to start the rally, followed by singles by Giovanni Garbella (San Diego, Calif. / Cathedral Catholic) and Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) to load the bases. Kapers popped up on the infield, and the Crusaders were still down four with four outs left to go.
- Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean) hit a ground ball to second, but the second baseman’s throw to second was tardy. Dawson’s RBI fielder’s choice cut the lead three at 6-3.
- That set up Stea’s heroics, as he drilled a grand slam to left to put Valpo ahead 7-6.
- Luke VanLanen (Pulaski, Wis. / Pulaski), who got the final out of the eighth, threw the first pitch of the ninth. Then Brian Schmack came to the mound and inserted Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland), who nailed down his second save.
Inside The Game
- The Crusaders played without Nate Palace, the team leader in home runs and RBIs, due to illness. Hanson played first base in his place.
- The Grizzlies did not leave any runners on base in the first seven innings. They did not have any singles in the game, as all six of their hits went for extra bases (three doubles and three home runs).
- VanLanen received the win in relief, his first decision of the season. Nate Schweers was hit with the defeat after allowing five runs on five hits in two innings of relief for Oakland.
- Losi tossed 7 2/3 innings, allowing six runs on five hits, two walks and five strikeouts.
- Jacob collected three hits and Garbella had two. It was Jacob’s third three-hit day and 10th multi-hit performance, while Garbella enjoyed his fourth multi-hit game.
- Shaikin has reached base in 15 consecutive games.
- Stea’s four RBIs marked his Valpo career high.
- Hanson is up to 18 RBIs, two shy of Palace for the team lead.
- Stea scored his 24th run of the season, which represents the team lead.
- This was Valpo’s second win when trailing after seven innings this season.
The Crusaders and Grizzlies will do it again on Friday with the middle game of the series beginning at 1 p.m. CT. The game can be heard on 95.1 FM Valparaiso, WVUR. Links to live audio and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.