February 18, 2018123456789RHE
Win: Vainer (1-0) 3.220014
Loss: Gordon (0-1) 2.2108822
Billinger (VALPO) 503200
Holcombe (UA) 444311
Baseball Drops Finale in Tuscaloosa
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Baseball Drops Finale in Tuscaloosa

The Valparaiso University baseball team fell to Alabama 12-6 in Sunday’s series finale at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The Crusaders continued to produce offensively, banging out six runs on 11 hits, highlighted by a five-run second inning.

How It Happened

  • The game got off to an unfavorable start for the Crusaders (0-3), as the Crimson Tide (3-0) jumped on the board with a four-run first against starting pitcher Wes Gordon (Gurnee, Ill. / Warren [Lake County]. Keith Holcome’s two-out, run-scoring triple was the most noteworthy hit of the frame.
  • The Valpo offense bounced right back with a five-run second inning to gain a 5-4 edge. Giovanni Garbella launched a solo homer to begin the second, the first of five straight players to reach base.
  • Jayden Eggimann drew a bases-loaded walk to force in a run, then Valpo pulled within one when the first out of the inning was finally recorded on an RBI fielder’s choice bouncer by Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean).
  • Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) continued to deliver big hits on the opening weekend of his Valpo career. He ripped a single to left with two down in the second, driving in two to give Valpo a 5-4 lead.
  • Alabama drew even when Joe Breaux wacked a run-scoring double to left in the bottom of the frame. The Crimson Tide went back on top in the third on a two-run double by Walker McCleney. After Jett Manning scored on a wild pitch to make it 8-5, Gordon was lifted after 2 2/3 innings. He took the loss and was charged with eight runs on 10 hits.
  • The Crusaders got one back in the fourth when Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) singled home Dawson, but that would be Valpo’s final tally of the game.
  • The Crimson Tide added a run in the sixth and put it away with a three spot in the eighth. Davis Vainer (1-0) delivered 3 2/3 scoreless innings of two-hit ball out of the Alabama bullpen to earn the win, then Brock Guffey gained the save by retiring all five men he faced.  

Inside the Game

  • The Crusaders held the lead at some point in all three games of the series against the Crimson Tide.
  • Billinger led the way on Sunday, posting three hits to finish the series with a .462 batting average. He drove in a pair and currently shares the team lead in RBIs with Dawson at four apiece.
  • Dawson and Garbella both had multi-hit games as well. Dawson enjoyed his second consecutive multi-hit output, while Garbella had his first of the season.
  • Garbella’s home run marked his first of 2018 and the eighth of his career.
  • Dawson had the first triple by a Crusader this year and the fourth of his career on Sunday. He finished with one triple a year ago, May 5 vs. Youngstown State.
  • Zack Leone (Pelham Manor, N.Y. / Fordham Prep [Susquehanna]) picked up another hit plus a walk in the series finale to finish the opening weekend with a team-best .545 batting average.
  • The two newcomers in Valpo’s starting lineup – Leone and Billinger – made a strong first impression, combining to go 12-for-24 in the three games.

Thoughts from Head Coach Brian Schmack

“I was pleased with our offense over the course of the weekend. We hit the ball well for the third consecutive game, which is an encouraging sign going forward.”

Up Next

The Crusaders will be back in action for four games in Norman, Okla. this coming weekend, starting with a date with Holy Cross on Friday at noon.