The Valparaiso University baseball team notched its fourth win in the last five games on Thursday afternoon at Emory G. Bauer Field. Freshman Christian Barczi (Naperville, Ill. / Naperville North) worked a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth to force in the winning run and send the Crusaders into celebration following a 5-4 victory over Milwaukee. All four Valpo base runners in the ninth came via walks, two of which were intentional.
How It Happened
- The Crusaders (24-28, 13-15 Horizon) started senior weekend with two seniors involved in the first scoring play of the game. Jake Hanson (Yorkville, Ill. / Aurora Christian) singled home James Stea (Los Alamitos, Calif. / Los Alamitos [Golden West]) to vault Valpo in front in the first.
- That stood as the only run of the game until the fifth as Valpo’s Mario Losi (Anaheim, Calif. / Canyon) and Milwaukee’s Jay Peters engaged in a pitchers’ duel. The Crusaders scratched out a run in that inning as Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) bounced out and Stea crossed the dish to make it 2-0.
- Losi pulled off a remarkable escape in the sixth, working out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam unscathed. He induced a shallow fly ball to right, followed by back-to-back infield popups.
- Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) bolstered the Valpo lead by crushing a run-scoring triple to right center in the sixth. He later scored on a sac fly by Stea to make it 4-0.
- Losi left after six scoreless frames in which he permitted four hits and one walk. He ended up with no decision.
- The Panthers (22-31, 10-18) began to creep back into the game when Trevor Schwecke lifted an RBI double, then Daulton Varsho spanked a two-run homer that whittled the deficit to one.
- Jon Tieman (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge) came in from the bullpen to get the final out of the seventh, then tossed a scoreless eighth. Tieman remained in the game for the ninth. With two on and a runner at second and Valpo leading by a run, the Crusaders intentionally walked Varsho to bring up Ben Chally. Chally doubled to right to drive in the tying run, but Varsho was cut down at the plate on a close play to end the inning.
- Nate Palace (Westlake Village, Calif. / Oaks Christian) walked to start the bottom of the ninth, then a sacrifice bunt, intentional walk, wild pitch and another intentional walk set up Barzi’s bases-full base on balls to end it.
Inside the Game
- Tieman permitted just one run on three hits and one walk over 2 1/3 innings to pick up the win and up his record to 4-1.
- Milwaukee reliever Brandon Parr dropped to 2-6 after being hit with the defeat. He walked four of the five men he faced, two of them intentionally.
- Kapers paced the Crusaders with three hits, while Hanson and Shaikin chipped in two hits apiece.
- Stea was hit by a pitch for the 23rd time this season, moving into sole possession of first place on Valpo’s single-season HBP list. The record was previously held by Tanner Vavra.
- Kapers continued a favorable stretch offensively. In the last five games, he’s 9-for-18 with five runs scored, three doubles, a triple and five RBIs. He has 14 total bases during that stretch, matching Stea for the team lead. Kapers is slugging a team-best .778 during the last five contests.
Inside the Standings
After a 12-11 win over Oakland on Thursday, Northern Kentucky is on the brink of clinching the No. 3 seed in the Horizon League. The only other team with hope for the No. 3 seed is Valpo, and for that to happen the Crusaders would have to win both remaining games against Milwaukee and the Norse would have to lose both remaining games against Oakland. With the win on Thursday, the Crusaders have locked up no worse than fifth in the Horizon League. The only scenario where Valpo finishes fifth is Valpo losing both remaining games and Oakland winning both remaining games. Aside from the two aforementioned scenarios, any other combination of how the weekend could play out would result in Valpo finishing fourth. Elsewhere, Wright State defeated UIC 6-4 to stay alive for the No. 1 seed. The Flames need to salvage one win of the remaining two games to clinch the top seed and host the tournament.
The Crusaders will continue the series against Milwaukee on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT at Emory G. Bauer Field. The game can be heard on 95.1 FM Valparaiso. Links to live audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.