The Valparaiso University baseball team bounced back from a Game 1 loss by capturing a 12-8 win over host Arkansas Pine Bluff in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader at Torii Hunter Baseball Complex. Zack Leone (Pelham Manor, N.Y. / Fordham Prep [Susquehanna]) racked up seven RBIs and reached base in all six plate appearances in the second game. The Golden Lions came from behind to edge the Crusaders 6-5 in the opener.
How It Happened – Game 1
- The Crusaders (6-12) gained the early lead when Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) ripped a run-scoring double and Giovanni Garbella (San Diego, Calif. / Cathedral Catholic) lashed an RBI single in the opening inning. Arkansas Pine Bluff rebounded against Valpo starting pitcher Trey Ferketic (Laguna Niguel, Calif. / JSerra [UC San Diego]) in the bottom of the inning when Sergio Esparza doubled to left center to drive in a pair, tying the game at two.
- A two-out hit by Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) allowed Valpo to take a 3-2 lead in the second, but once again the Golden Lions (6-9) bounced back to tie it, this time with a sac fly by Esparza in the third.
- Valpo grabbed the lead for the third time in the game in the top of the fourth when Shaikin drew a bases-loaded walk and Garbella bounced into a fielder’s choice that scored a run.
- Yet again, Arkansas Pine Bluff had an answer, this time taking their first lead of the game with a three-run sixth. The Valpo defense contributed to the uprising, as two of the three runs that scored in the inning were unearned.
- A Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) double went to waste in the top of the seventh, then Jarrett Hammel (Brook, Ind. / South Newton [Saint Joseph’s College]) sent down the side in order to keep in 6-5 in favor of the Golden Lions.
- Valpo got the tying run to second with one away in the top of the ninth, but Tyrus Lopez recorded the final two outs to nail down the win.
- Lopez (2-1) was the winning pitcher in relief for Arkansas Pine Bluff after he hurled six shutout innings and scattered just four hits. Ferketic (2-2) was on the other end of the decision after yielding six runs (three earned) on four hits in 5 1/3 innings.
How It Happened – Game 2
- For the second consecutive game, Valpo jumped on the board right away, this time on a two-run double by Leone that came with two outs in the opening inning.
- The Golden Lions sliced the deficit in half in the second, but Valpo starter Wes Gordon (Gurnee, Ill. / Warren [Lake County] latched down after allowing back-to-back doubles to start the inning, preventing further damage and keeping his team in front 2-1.
- That lead grew in the third, when Valpo had four singles including run-scoring knocks by Leone and Christian Barczi (Naperville, Ill. / Naperville North). Arkansas Pine Bluff got those two right back in the bottom of the inning, but Valpo retained the lead, 4-3.
- Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean) tripled and scored on a Billinger single in the fourth, then Leone again did damage, recording his fourth and fifth RBIs of the game on a single that made it 7-3.
- As was the case all day long, Arkansas Pine Bluff had an answer. They enjoyed a four-run seventh inning that saw Valpo use three different pitchers. A three-run homer by Esparza tied the game at seven.
- Jayden Eggimann (Mesa, Ariz. / Desert Ridge [Central Arizona / Grand Canyon]) delivered a double to drive in a run in the fifth, giving Valpo another lead at 8-7. This time, the lead stood for the game’s duration.
- Chet Joslyn (Battle Creek, Mich. / Lakeview) came in from the bullpen to notch the final out of the fifth inning, an important one that ended a bases-loaded threat and kept Valpo in front 8-7.
- Joslyn kept it going in the sixth with a 1-2-3 frame. The Valpo offense went back to work in the seventh as Dawson singled in a run, one the Golden Lions would get back in the bottom of the inning to make it 9-8.
- Giovanni Garbella (San Diego, Calif. / Cathedral Catholic) launched a home run to left to lead off the eighth, then Leone capped his seven-RBI performance with a two-run single in the top of the ninth.
- Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland) was summoned from the bullpen in a critical spot in the eighth with Valpo leading by two and induced an inning-ending double play. He stayed on to get the final three outs of the game, nailing down his first save of the year.
- Luke VanLanen (Pulaski, Wis. / Pulaski) got the win in relief to improve to 1-3, while Antoine Luster took the loss and fell to 2-2.
Inside the Games
- Leone’s seven RBIs were the most by any Crusader in a game since Jake Hanson had eight on March 15, 2016 against Oakland. He became just the second player in the Missouri Valley Conference to drive in seven in a game this season, joining Illinois State’s John Rave (Feb. 25 vs. Tennessee Tech).
- Leone finished the game 4-for-4 with two walks to go along with his seven RBIs. He also had two hits in the opener. Leone already has two games with five or more RBIs this season. If he enjoys one more such performance between now and season’s end, he’ll become the first Crusader in the last decade to have five or more RBIs in three games in a season.
- Leone finished the three-game series 9-for-15 (.600) with nine RBIs.
- Garbella has hit safely in all nine games he’s played this season.
- The top five hitters in Valpo’s order all had multiple hits in Game 2. Shaikin went 3-for-5 and scored four times, matching a personal best in runs scored from Feb. 24 vs. Oklahoma.
- Garbella’s home run was his third of the season, joining Dawson and Shaikin as the three Crusaders with three long balls apiece.
- Valpo had 10 hits or more in all three games in the series, totaling 39 hits over the three games.
The Crusaders will return to the Midwest and visit Chicago State on Tuesday at 3 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on 95.1 FM Valparaiso WVUR and can also be followed via live stats.