Starting pitcher Wes Gordon (Gurnee, Ill. / Warren [Lake County]) had his finest day in a Valpo uniform on Sunday at L. Dale Mitchell Stadium in Norman, Okla. and the Crusaders pushed across a game-tying run in the ninth, but Oklahoma prevailed 3-2 in 10 innings in the weekend finale. The Crusaders outhit the Sooners 11-6 in the contest.
How It Happened
- The damage the Sooners (4-4) did against Gordon came in the form of single tallies in the second and fourth innings. Oklahoma second baseman Kyle Mendenhall was responsible for both RBIs, lifting a sacrifice fly to right in the second and singling through the left side in the fourth.
- The Crusaders (2-4) had early chances, leaving the bases loaded in each of the first two innings.
- After Mendenhall’s fourth-inning single that made it 2-0, Gordon buckled down. Not only did he not allow a run for the remainder of his outing, but the right-hander sent down 15 straight to finish his day. He displayed masterful control, striking out seven and walking none in nine innings, a tough-luck no decision.
- Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) doubled to left to drive in Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) in the sixth for Valpo’s first run of the game, slicing the deficit in half.
- The score remained 2-1 until the top of the ninth, which started with a Chase Dawson single up the middle. After Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) laid down a sacrifice bunt, Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) roped a double down the right-field line, tying the game at two. The Crusaders had an opportunity to push the go-ahead run across with a man at second and only one away, but Oklahoma’s Connor Berry got the final two outs to keep it tied.
- Gordon kept rolling in the ninth, working a quick 1-2-3 including a pair of looking punch outs.
- Valpo had the go-ahead run at second with one out again in the top of the 10th, but couldn’t drive it in. The Sooners walked off on a Brandon Zaragoza sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th against Jarrett Hammel (Brook, Ind. / South Newton [Saint Joseph’s College]). Easton Rhodehouse (0-1) took the loss, as the sophomore righty walked the first batter of the 10th, who went on to score the winning run.
Inside the Game
- Gordon’s nine-inning start was the longest of his Crusader career, as he had previously pitched no more than 6 1/3 innings in any one outing. His seven strikeouts were one shy of a career high, set in his Valpo debut last season at Western Kentucky. Gordon did not issue any walks on Sunday, the third time in his career he’s allowed no walks in a start.
- Billinger and Shaikin continued their success at the plate, as each player lashed out two hits. Those two players share the team lead with four multi-hit games in the first six games of the year. Shaikin batted .700 with two home runs, two doubles and five RBIs this weekend.
- Dawson and Jacob have both hit safely in all six games this season.
- Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mt. Carmel) also had two hits, his second multi-hit game of the season.
- Six Valpo players share the team lead in RBIs with six apiece as part of what has been a balanced offense. Six Crusaders are hitting .318 or better and the team holds a .311 batting average after six games against quality competition.
The annual spring break trip will begin in Phoenix, Ariz. on Friday, March 2. The Crusaders face CSUN at 4 p.m. CT for the first of four games in Phoenix – two against CSUN and two against Grand Canyon.