For the third time in the series, the Valparaiso University baseball team engaged in a back-and-forth affair with Youngstown State on Sunday afternoon at Eastwood Field in Niles, Ohio. This time the Crusaders got the last laugh, as Jayden Eggimann (Mesa, Ariz. / Desert Ridge [Central Arizona / Grand Canyon]) belted his first Valpo home run in the top of the ninth, a three-run shot that proved to be the difference in the game.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders (17-25, 7-12 Horizon) hit the ball hard in the early going against Youngstown State starter Alex Bellardini. Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) ripped a double to lead off the second, then Giovanni Garbella (San Diego, Calif. / Cathedral Catholic) crushed a sharp single up the middle to put Valpo on the board.
- Shaikin crossed the dish for the second time in the game in the fourth, as he singled and eventually scampered home on a wild pitch.
- James Stea (Los Alamitos, Calif. / Los Alamitos [Golden West]) ripped a solo home run to left to lead off the fifth, lifting the lead to 3-0.
- With Jesse Slinger on to pitch in place of Bellardini in the sixth, the Crusaders tacked on as Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) lifted a sac fly that allowed Shaikin to score his third run of the game and the team’s fourth.
- The Crusaders had scored in four of the first six innings, but the Penguins got it all back with one big frame against Valpo starter Ellis Foreman (Round Rock, Texas / Stony Point). Trey Bridis delivered a two-run triple, followed by run-scoring hits by Lou Cardona and Kyle Benyo to tie the game at four.
- The Crusaders went back ahead in a peculiar top of the seventh. After a run-scoring single by Jake Hanson (Yorkville, Ill. / Aurora Christian) made it 5-4, Valpo tacked on as Garbella hit a ground ball back to the pitcher, who threw the ball to home, but the catcher did not step on the plate while he had possession of the ball before throwing on to first in an effort to double up Garbella. Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) was safe at home on an E-2, boosting Valpo’s lead to 6-4.
- The Penguins (14-28, 8-14) got one back in the bottom of the inning against Foreman, then tied the game against Hayden Kissee (Indianapolis / Greenfield Central [Kaskasia College]) in the eighth.
- The top of the ninth saw Garbella, who has seemingly been at the heart of every Valpo rally recently, club a clutch double that scored Steven Fitzsimmons and gave Valpo a 7-6 lead. That’s when Eggimann, who had come off the bench earlier in the game as a defensive replacement, crushed his first long ball in a Valpo uniform with Garbella and Kapers along for the ride.
- Eggimann’s blast proved to be the difference as the Penguins got one run in the bottom of the inning against Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland) on a Shane Willoughby double down the right field line.
Inside the Game
- Kissee picked up the win in relief, the first decision of his Valpo career. Joel Hake took the defeat for the Penguins and dropped to 0-5.
- Foreman allowed five runs on 13 hits while striking out three over seven innings. For the second straight start, Foreman did not issue any walks.
- The Crusaders were outhit 16-12, but they drew eight walks to Youngstown State’s one and committed no errors to Youngstown State’s two.
- Stea’s home run was his fourth of the season. He reached base in all six plate appearances with three hits, two walks and an HBP.
- Shaikin and Garbella also chipped in three hits apiece. Shaikin has climbed to the team lead in batting average at .333, with Garbella third on the team at .312.
- Entering Valpo’s game against Northern Kentucky on April 9, Garbella was hitting .213 with no home runs and eight RBIs in 26 games this season and was a .204 career hitter over three years. Since then, he’s hitting .451 with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 14 games.
The Crusaders will host Northern Illinois on Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Emory G. Bauer Field. The game will be broadcast on 95.1 FM, WVUR Valparaiso. Links to live audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.