If there’s one thing the Valparaiso University baseball team has proven through the first seven games of the 2018 season, it’s that the Crusaders can score against anybody. Trailing 13-4 entering the frame, they scored in the ninth inning of Friday’s GCU Classic opener against CSUN. And they scored. And they scored. And they scored. Eventually, Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean) drilled a two-run, game-tying home run to cap an improbable nine-run frame, but the Matadors went on to win 14-13, sending Valpo to their third walk-off loss in five defeats this year.
How It Happened
- CSUN pushed across single tallies against Valpo starting pitcher Jon Tieman (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge) in each of the first two frames. The Matadors took advantage of a pair of walks to start the bottom of the first. Albee Weiss legged out an infield single to drive in the first run of the game.
- The Matadors (6-3) got their second tally in the second inning as Brandon Bohning ripped a single to right center that plated a run.
- Fresh off winning the Missouri Valley Conference Hitter of the Week award this past week, Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) put his team in front with one swing in the third inning. After Jayden Eggimann (Mesa, Ariz. / Desert Ridge [Central Arizona / Grand Canyon] and Dawson picked up back-to-back singles, the Valpo third baseman drilled a three-run homer to left center.
- CSUN threatened with runners at second and third and only one away in the bottom of the third, but Tieman worked his way out of it. He notched a bases-loaded strikeout to retire the side and keep the lead intact.
- However, the Matadors drew even on a squeeze bunt by Joey Cooper in the fourth, then regained the lead a moment later as Trevor Casanova belted a two-run homer to make it 5-3.
- A double by Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]), a walk and a hit by pitch allowed Valpo (2-5) to load the bases with only one away in the top of the sixth, but Isaiah Nunez came in from the CSUN bullpen and got back-to-back outs.
- A six-run bottom of the seventh against the Valpo bullpen allowed CSUN to break the game wide open (or at least it seemed to at the time). Bohning’s run-scoring triple and Kevin Riley’s two-run homer highlighted the frame. By the time the third out was recorded, the Crusaders found themselves down 11-3.
- Senior Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) ripped a single to right center in the top of the eighth, allowing Billinger to come in and score the fourth Valpo run of the game. Billinger had started the frame by clubbing a double.
- The Matadors tacked on two more in the bottom of the eighth, building the lead to 13-4. What seemed like two meaningless runs at the time proved to be valuable insurance tallies.
- Billinger smashed a bases-clearing double in the top of the ninth, cutting the lead to six at 13-7. Brent Jones (Ankeny, Iowa / Ankeny Centennial) drove in Billinger with the first hit of his Crusader career to make it 13-8.
- Two batters later, Jacob doubled to right center to score Jones, turning what had been a laugher into a save situation – one that would not be converted by CSUN.
- A pitching change didn’t stop the bleeding for the Matadors, as Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mt. Carmel) drove in a run with a ground ball, Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) ripped a run-scoring single and all of the sudden it was 13-11 with still only one away.
- After CSUN reliever Blake Schriever struck out the first man he faced, Dawson delivered. The Valpo second baseman pulled a 1-0 pitch over the wall in right, leveling the score at 13.
- The miraculous comeback wasn’t enough, as Joey Cooper’s walk-off single made Luke VanLanen (Pulaski, Wis. / Pulaski) pay for a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth.
Inside the Game
- Shaikin’s home run was his third of the season. He’s the only Crusader with multiple long balls in the first seven games. Last year, Shaikin’s third homer didn’t come until April 21 and he finished with four total.
- Dawson enjoyed a career-high five hits, becoming the first Crusader since Nolan Lodden on March 20, 2016 at Northern Kentucky to rack up five hits in a single game. Dawson has hit safely in all seven games this year and has had multiple hits on four occasions.
- Dawson has homered twice in his last four games after going without a home run in his first 332 career at-bats.
- Billinger, who doubled three times on Friday, has also notched multiple hits in five of his seven games in a Valpo uniform. He became the first Valpo player with three doubles in a game since Andrew Quinnette on April 26, 2008 against Butler.
- The Crusaders have had 11 hits or more in six straight games. The 17 hits on Friday marked a season high.
- VanLanen took the loss to fall to 0-2, while Schriever claimed his first decision of the year with the win in relief. Both starters received no decisions, including Tieman after he allowed five runs on nine hits and five walks in 4 1/3 innings.
The GCU Classic continues on Saturday as the Crusaders take on the host Antelopes at 7 p.m. CT. That game will be broadcast via YouTube Live as Valpo RHP Trey Ferketic pitches against Grand Canyon southpaw Jake Repavich. Valpo center fielder Jayden Eggimann will have the chance to play against his former team, as he played for Grand Canyon his freshman season.