When the Valparaiso University baseball team arrives in California for the second stop on its spring trip, 11 Crusaders will be back in their home state. But on Sunday, it was Jayden Eggimann’s moment in the sun in The Valley of the Sun. The Mesa, Ariz. native clubbed a ninth-inning home run and drove in five to help Valpo ensure that his homecoming ended on a high note with an 11-7 victory over Grand Canyon, the team Eggimann played for as a freshman. That allowed Valpo to bounce back from a 6-5 loss to CSUN earlier in the day.
How It Happened - CSUN
- The first game of the day started as a pitchers’ duel as Valpo’s Wes Gordon (Gurnee, Ill. / Warren [Lake County]) and CSUN’s Matt Acosta exchanged zeros for the first three innings. One swing of the bat by Albee Weiss started the scoring in the fourth, as he belted a two-run homer for the Matadors.
- The Crusaders got a run right back in the bottom of the frame when a sac fly to center by Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) plated Christian Barczi (Naperville, Ill. / Naperville North), who had had singled earlier in the inning. Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) had led off the fourth with a single, but was later retired on the hidden ball trick.
- The Crusaders settled for a run in the fourth, but they were right back in business in the fifth after back-to-back CSUN errors started the inning. Billinger made the Matadors pay for the defensive miscues, ripping a two-run single to right. The Matadors’ defense remained wobbly on that play, as an E-9 allowed Billinger to move up to second, but he was cut down at third to end the inning.
- Pitching with the lead for the first time, Gordon sent down six straight in the sixth and seventh innings. However, CSUN grabbed a 4-3 edge on Trevor Casanova’s two-run double against Gordon in the eighth, then tacked on two more as Weiss slugged his second homer of the day to make it 6-3.
- The Crusaders were on the comeback trail again in the eighth inning, as back-to-back singles and a walk allowed them to set up a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity. Jacob ripped a single to center and everyone moved up 90 feet, making it 6-4 in favor of CSUN. Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mt. Carmel) became the fifth straight Crusader to reach, singling through the left side to make it 6-5.
- Valpo still had the bases juiced with nobody out and faced only a one-run deficit, but Riley Dent grounded into an unusual double play as Kapers was ruled out for runner’s interference, preventing the tying run from scoring. Zack Leone had scored easily, but was sent back to third.
- After Chet Joslyn (Battle Creek, Mich. / Lakeview) pitched a scoreless top of the ninth, Isaiah Nunez remained in the game for CSUN, posting a zero in the bottom of the ninth to secure a two-inning save and preserve a 6-5 win for CSUN.
- Acosta (2-2) gained the win, while Gordon (0-2) was hit with the loss after allowing six runs on eight hits and no walks in eight innings.
How It Happened – Grand Canyon
- It didn’t take long for Billinger to continue his red-hot start to the season in the top of the first, as he clobbered a solo homer to center.
- Grand Canyon tied the game in the second inning as Tyler Wyatt notched a run-scoring single against Valpo starting pitcher Michael Mommersteeg (St. Thomas, Ont., Canada / St. Joseph’s)
- The fourth inning was a prosperous one for the Crusaders, who got three consecutive singles to start the inning, then scored on a fielder’s choice bouncer by Kapers. Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) singled in another run, then Eggimann ripped a single to drive in two and double the lead to four at 5-1.
- Wyatt’s second RBI of the game came on a two-out single in the fourth to make it 5-2, then neither team scored again until the bottom of the sixth, when Grand Canyon tied it with a three-run inning. All three runs in the frame were charged to the starter Mommersteeg, who was lifted with one away. Wyatt had a sac fly for his third RBI of the game, then a two-out double by Griffin Barnes drove in a pair to tie the game at five.
- The Crusaders went back ahead in the top of the ninth as Billinger was once again the rally starter with an infield single to begin the inning. After back-to-back walks loaded the bases, Jacob drove in the go-ahead run on a fielder’s choice bouncer that required a diving stop by the Lopes’ first baseman to keep it on the infield.
- Kapers ripped a single up the middle to plate an insurance run, then Dent scampered home on a wild pitch. With three runs already in the bank and an 8-5 lead to show for it, Eggimann’s big blow took place. His three-run bomb went to left center, making it 11-5.
- The way this weekend went for all three teams involved in the GCU Classic, nobody was chalking up a win until the 27th out was recorded. That again proved true in the weekend finale as Grand Canyon showed life by scoring a pair in the bottom of the ninth, but Joslyn came in and got three consecutive outs after inheriting a bases-loaded, no-out jam, earning his first save of the season.
- Jarrett Hammel (Brook, Ind. / South Newton [Saint Joseph’s College]) picked up his first win in a Valpo uniform by virtue of his scoreless inning out of the bullpen. Mommersteeg allowed five runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings, while Hayden Kissee (Greenfield Central [Kaskaskia]) worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings and permitted only one hit. Nick Ohanian was the loser for Grand Canyon, falling to 0-2.
Inside the Games
- Gordon has not issued a walk in 17 innings over his last two starts.
- Valpo has had 11 hits or more in nine straight games. The team totaled 26 hits over the two games on Sunday.
- Billinger had another huge day, combining to go 5-for-10 with a home run, three runs scored and three RBIs. He has taken over the team lead in batting average at .444. He also leads the team in doubles with seven and has two home runs and 13 RBIs.
- Barczi had three hits in the opener and reached base a total of six times on the day. After a slow start to the season, Barczi has his average all the way up to .294.
- Eggimann’s home was his first of the season and the third of his Valpo career, while the five RBIs marked a career high. Eggimann is up to a team-leading 14 RBIs and has already driven in more runs than he did all of last season in 30 fewer at-bats.
- Eggimann, who also set a career high with three hits, became the second Crusader to drive in five runs in a game this year, joining Zack Leone.
The Crusaders (4-6) will visit UC Riverside for two games beginning on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. CT before heading on to Loyola Marymount for a three-game weekend series.