When the first four Northern Illinois batters of the game drew bases on balls, it looked like it could be a long Wednesday afternoon for the Valparaiso University baseball team. That’s when head coach Brian Schmack summoned Jake Larson (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) from the bullpen. The freshman right-hander delivered 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to propel the Crusaders to an 8-2 victory over the Huskies at Emory G. Bauer Field.
How It Happened
- Starting pitcher Michael Mommersteeg (St. Thomas, Ont., Canada / St. Joseph’s) didn’t record an out – walking the only four batters he faced. The fourth walk in that string came from Jacob Dunham, forcing in a run to give Northern Illinois (14-29) a 1-0 lead.
- After Larson managed to get three outs while facing only one batter (a pick off followed by a double play), the Crusaders (18-25) bounced right back with three runs in the bottom of the first. Jake Hanson (Yorkville, Ill. / Aurora Christian) banged a double to left center to drive in Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif. / Oaks Christian), Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) stroked a run-scoring single to right and Shaikin eventually scored on a throwing error by the pitcher.
- The Crusaders added to the lead in the fourth when James Stea (Los Alamitos, Calif. / Los Alamitos [Golden West]) hit a weak ground ball in front of the plate that was scooped up by the catcher, who chose to throw to second, where Jayden Eggimann (Mesa, Ariz. / Desert Ridge [Central Arizona / Grand Canyon]) was safe. The throw was off line, allowing Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel), who started the play at second base, to trot home on an E-2.
- Kapers was a part of Valpo’s scoring in the next inning as well, as he lifted a sacrifice fly that made it 5-1 Crusaders.
- In the sixth, Stea took off for third before the pitcher started his delivery to the plate. The pitcher threw to second, then the second baseman’s throw to third hit Stea and bounced away. Stea was credited with a steal of third and scored on the throwing error.
- Eggimann belted a two-run homer in the seventh to boost Valpo’s lead to 8-1.
- Samuel Vega lofted a single down the right field line in the top of the ninth, plating NIU’s second run and accounting for the final tally of the game.
Inside the Game
- Larson struck out two and walked two over 5 2/3 shutout innings of four-hit ball. He earned his first career win to improve to 1-1.
- Northern Illinois starter Blake Walker was tagged with the loss after allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits and four walks in four frames.
- With his two stolen bases on Wednesday, Stea lifts his team-high season stolen base total to 20. He’s one away from moving into a five-way tie for fifth in program history in single-season steals.
- After launching his first Valpo home run on Sunday, Eggimann belted the second home run of his Crusader career on Wednesday.
- A sentence that has seemingly been a fixture in every recent recap remains – Giovanni Garbella (San Diego, Calif. / Cathedral Catholic) and Shaikin had two hits apiece. Garbella has multiple hits in three straight and seven of his last 10. Shaikin also has three straight multi-hit outputs and has a team-high 17 multi-hit games on the year.
- Hanson has reached base in 13 straight. He and Garbella are still tied for the team lead in doubles with 14 each.
- The Crusaders drew a season-high 11 walks. This marks the second straight game the Crusaders have established a season watermark after working eight walks on Sunday at Youngstown State. The 11 walks is the most the Crusaders have drawn since they had 12 on March 3, 2015 at Western Carolina.
The Crusaders will return to action on Friday as they host Youngstown State for a doubleheader. The first game is slated to begin at noon CT. Links to coverage will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.