The Valparaiso University baseball team took a giant step toward securing its place in the upcoming Horizon League Tournament on Saturday, sweeping a doubleheader from Milwaukee at Henry Aaron Field. The Crusaders cruised to an 11-3 win in the opener before holding on for a 7-4 triumph in Game 2. Senior James Stea (Los Alamitos, Calif. / Los Alamitos) homered in both games and also tripled and drove in five in the second game. Valpo can clinch a spot in the league tournament on Sunday with either at least one victory over UIC or at least one Oakland victory over Youngstown State.
How It Happened – Game 1
- The Crusaders (22-27, 11-14 Horizon) took the lead on just the second pitch of the game as Stea rocketed a solo homer down the left field line.
- Valpo chased Milwaukee starter Austin Schulfer with a prosperous fourth inning. The frame started when Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) connected on Valpo’s second home run of the day, a solo blast to left to make it 2-0.
- Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean) drove in the second run of the inning with an infield single on a sharp ground ball to first. Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif. / Oaks Christian) was hit by a pitch to force in a run with the bases loaded, then Jake Hanson (Yorkville, Ill. / Aurora Christian) came through with a sharp two-out single to center to drive in two. Palace also came around to score on the play on a fielding error in center.
- Valpo added a run in the fifth as Giovanni Garbella (San Diego, Calif. / Cathedral Catholic) led off the inning with a double to deep left center and eventually scored on a ground ball to first by Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson).
- The Panthers (21-30, 11-16) got on the board with a Chris Kelly run-scoring single in the fifth, then added a pair on a single by Trevor Schwecke in the seventh to make it 8-3.
- Dent made the defensive play of the day in the sixth, a leaping catch at the fence that appeared to rob Milwaukee’s John Boidanis of a home run.
- Mario Losi (Anaheim, Calif. / Canyon) departed with one out in the bottom of the eighth with Milwaukee runners at second and third. It was one of the senior right-hander’s strongest outings of the year. He allowed three runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out four.
- The Crusaders added a tally in the top of the ninth as Shaikin lifted a deep fly ball that was dropped by the left fielder, scoring Hanson on an E-7. That damage compounded into two additional unearned runs as Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) banged a two-run double.
- Chet Joslyn (Battle Creek, Mich. / Lakeview) came in and got the final two outs of the eighth inning, then worked a scoreless ninth to seal the Valpo victory.
How It Happened – Game 2
- The two teams exchanged threats in the first inning of the second game, as Milwaukee starter Alex Fischer worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the first, then Jon Tieman (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge) worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the bottom half.
- Valpo cracked the scoreboard first for the second straight game by pouring in three runs in the top of the second. Stea provided the first blow for the second straight game, this time a two-run triple in the top of the second. Palace followed by belting a double to make it 3-0.
- The Crusaders got to the bullpen early in the second game, as Fischer was yanked after just two-plus innings following a single by Garbella to lead off the third.
- The Crusaders boosted the lead to four in the fourth as Kapers clubbed a double, then crossed the dish on a sac fly by Stea, who notched his third RBI of the game.
- The Panthers sliced the deficit in half in the bottom of the fourth. Boidanis led off the frame by belting a solo homer, then Billy Quirke had a run-scoring single to make it 4-2.
- Stea continued his monster day at the dish by crushing a two-run dinger with Dawson along for the ride. That doubled Valpo’s lead to 6-2 in the sixth.
- The Panthers got one back in the bottom of the sixth as Mike Jordahl smoked a solo homer, but the Crusaders still owned a 6-3 edge.
- Kapers lifted a sacrifice fly in the seventh to boost Valpo’s lead back to four at 7-3.
- Tieman pitched a gem, coming up one out shy of a complete game. He allowed four runs, three earned, on 10 hits and four walks while striking out nine in 8 2/3 innings. The Panthers got one run in the ninth to account for the final score. Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland) nailed down his third save by recording the final out.
Inside the Games
- Stea’s home runs were his sixth and seventh of the season, moving him into sole possession of second on the team behind only Palace. Shaikin’s blast was his fourth of the year.
- Losi picked up the victory in the opener to boost his record to 2-4. Austin Schulfer was dealt the defeat to drop to 6-5.
- Stea had a strong first game, reaching base three times including two extra-base hits. Hanson and Dawson both boasted productive performances, notching three hits apiece.
- Stea’s triple in the second inning of Game 2 was his second three-bagger of the season.
- Palace led the Crusaders with three hits in the second game.
- Fischer took the loss for the Panthers in the second game, dropping to 1-4 on the season. He lasted just two frames and was charged with three runs on five hits and three walks. Tieman’s win upped his record to 3-1.
The Crusaders will make the trip back to Valparaiso on Saturday evening and face a quick turnaround as they welcome UIC to Emory G. Bauer Field for a doubleheader on Sunday at noon CT. The games will be broadcast on 95.1 FM Valparaiso with links to live audio and stats available on ValpoAthletics.com.