The Valparaiso University baseball team dropped its first Missouri Valley Conference road game on Friday in Carbondale, Ill. The two starters engaged in a pitchers’ duel early, but host Southern Illinois pulled away late for a 6-2 victory in the opening game of the three-game weekend series.
How It Happened
- Neither team got on the board until the bottom of the fifth inning, when Southern Illinois’ Austin Ulick led off with a single and eventually scored on an RBI fielder’s choice bouncer by Nikola Vasic.
- Valpo starting pitcher Jon Tieman (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge) had continually worked out of trouble over the first four innings, three of which saw a Southern Illinois player reach second base. The Valpo right-hander was aided by inning-ending double plays in each of the first two frames.
- Valpo’s best scoring chance in the early going came in the fourth, when Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) smoked a two-out double to right center and became the first Crusader to reach third base, but he was stranded there.
- Drew Curtis sliced an RBI double down the left-field line to drive in Logan Blackfan, who had reached on an error, for an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth, making it 2-0 in favor of the Salukis (16-13, 3-1).
- Two more runs crossed the dish in the sixth, also unearned as the inning would have been over were it not for the error. Ulick ripped a run-scoring single, before Grey Epps delivered an RBI triple to boost the Southern Illinois lead to 4-0.
- Tieman came back out for the seventh inning and worked a quick 1-2-3. Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) made a diving stop at third for the final out of that inning.
- Drew Curtis ripped a two-run homer with one away in the eighth to end Tieman’s day. The Valpo sophomore was hit with the loss to fall to 3-3 after allowing six runs (three earned) on 10 hits and two walks in 7 1/3 innings.
- The Crusaders (8-17, 1-3) got on the board in the bottom of the ninth when Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) drilled a home run with Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean) along for the ride to make it a 6-2 game.
Inside the Game
- Southern Illinois starter Michael Baird threw a complete game, scattering seven hits and walking two while striking out five. Baird boosted his record to 3-2 after allowing just two runs, both on the Shaikin homer in the ninth.
- Shaikin grabbed sole possession of the team lead in home runs with his fourth of the year, equaling his season total from a year ago. The Valpo junior has eight career long balls.
- Giovanni Garbella (San Diego, Calif. / Cathedral Catholic) and Billinger had two hits apiece to pace the Valpo offense.
The Crusaders and Salukis will do it again on Saturday with a 2 p.m. start at Itchy Jones Stadium. Trey Ferketic is slated to pitch against Jamison Steege. The game will air on The Valley on ESPN3 and on Saluki Radio. Live stats are also available.