The long day in Dallas that featured a little bit of everything ended with the Valparaiso University baseball team bidding farewell to its 10-member senior class on Friday evening. The Crusaders gave host DBU a scare by sprinting out to a 5-0 lead at Horner Ballpark, but the Patriots came from behind to edge the Crusaders 7-5, avoiding a second straight loss to the seventh-seeded Crusaders that may have dashed DBU’s NCAA Regional hopes.
The Valpo seniors can walk out with their heads held high after head coach Brian Schmack’s group overcame a lackluster finish to the regular season by putting on an impressive showing throughout the week in the school’s first Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. After a 13-10 upset of DBU on Wednesday, the Crusaders gave third-seeded Bradley all they could handle in an 11-9 loss that ended in the wee hours of Friday morning.
How It Happened
- Friday’s game started with DBU pitching issuing four consecutive walks. Kody Funderburk allowed the first three before his day came to an early end. Giovanni Garbella (San Diego, Calif. / Cathedral Catholic) worked a walk against reliever Parker Towns, forcing in a run to put Valpo on the board.
- Two batters later, Chad Jacob (Irvine, Calif. / Woodbridge) grounded a two-run single through the right side to up Valpo’s lead to 3-0. Scott Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) lifted a sacrifice fly, making it a four-run first inning as DBU paid for all four walks.
- The game was briefly delayed in the top of the second as a large swarm of bees passed through the playing field. The DBU centerfielder was the first impacted, as he dropped to the ground to dodge the swarm, then the Crusaders evacuated the first base dugout as the bees buzzed by.
- Zack Leone (Pelham Manor, N.Y. / Fordham Prep [Susquehanna]) spanked a solo homer over the left-field fence in the third, increasing the Crusader edge to 5-0.
- After Valpo starting pitcher Trey Ferketic (Laguna Niguel, Calif. / JSerera [UC San Diego]) worked out of trouble in each of the first two innings, the Patriots broke through in the fourth with a four spot behind back-to-back two-run doubles.
- DBU grabbed its first lead of the game in the fifth when Luke Bandy ripped a two-run homer to make it 6-5.
- Jarrett Hammel (Brook, Ind. / South Newton [Saint Joseph’s College]) came in to get the final out of the fifth, then stayed in to work the first 1-2-3 of the day by either team in the sixth.
- A two-out walk hurt Hammel in the seventh, as a stolen base and base hit followed to double the DBU edge to 7-5.
- The Crusaders (19-34) made the Patriots sweat in the late innings, placing runners at first and second in the eighth and working a leadoff walk in the ninth. However, DBU escaped with the victory.
Inside the Game
- DBU starting pitchers went a total of 3 1/3 innings in two games against the Valpo offense in the tournament.
- Leone’s home run was his fourth of the season and first since April 21 at Evansville. He’ll carry with him the memory of launching a long ball in his final collegiate game.
- The top two hitters in the DBU order, Devlin Granberg and Jameson Hannah, went a combined 0-for-5 against Ferketic. Grandberg and Hannah entered the game hitting .431 and .368, respectively.
- Ferketic was lifted after 4 2/3 innings in which he allowed only five hits but was hurt by wildness. He issued seven walks and hit two batters.
- A game that was scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. did not start until 3:48 as the first game of the day took 4 hours, 20 minutes then a lightning delay caused the waiting game to continue.
- Jacob, a four-year member of the program, racked up three hits and drove in a pair in his final game in a Crusader uniform.
Inside the Record Book
- Blake Billinger matched the program’s single-season doubles record of 23 that was set by Kyle Muhlsteff in 2010.
- Valpo finished the season with 107 doubles as a team, a number that ranks fifth in program history.
- The Crusaders crushed 41 home runs, the fifth most in program history and the most since 2002.
- Valpo finished with a .973 fielding percentage, setting the program record for the second consecutive year. Before Valpo’s .971 mark in 2017, the program’s fielding percentage record had stood since 1998.