The Valparaiso University baseball team came within one out of topping host Arkansas State in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, but the Red Wolves rallied for a 7-6, 11-inning win before capturing the second game 7-1. Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) was Valpo’s top offensive performer, enjoying his second career multi-homer game in the opener.
How It Happened – Game 1
- Valpo jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks to a prosperous third inning. Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) started the scoring with a run-scoring single before Billinger belted a three-run bomb to make it 4-0.
- Arkansas State got a run back in the bottom of the inning, but then the scored stayed 4-1 until the seventh. Starting pitcher Mike Kornacker (Lemont, Ill. / St. Laurence [Purdue]) was lifted after six strong innings in which he allowed only one run on two hits and struck out three. He was in position for the victory at the time of his departure.
- Red Wolves starting pitcher Zach Jackson didn’t allow any runs outside of the four-run frame and left after six innings with no decision.
- Valpo’s lead disappeared in the blink of an eye with two outs in the seventh. A home run-walk-home run sequence allowed Arkansas State to take a 5-4 edge. Alex Howard and Sky-Lar Culver both lifted two-run long balls.
- The lead changed again in the eighth, this time with one swing of the bat. Billinger crushed his second home run of the day, a two-run job that propelled Valpo back in front 6-5.
- Arkansas State (4-2) mounted another two-out rally in the ninth, as Valpo started the frame one out from a victory with nobody on base. After a hit batter, Kyle MacDonald ripped a game-tying double to center.
- Valpo (1-3) had two on with one away in the top of the 11th, but an inning-ending double play kept it 6-6. The Red Wolves walked off on Howard’s second homer of the game, which came with two outs in the bottom of the 11th.
Inside the Game – Game 1
- Billinger’s home runs were the first two by the team this season. He lifted his career total to eight while enjoying his second career multi-homer game and first since hitting three on May 8 of last season at Western Michigan.
- Billinger finished the game with three hits and racked up five RBIs, equaling a career high set in the aforementioned game in Kalamazoo.
- Louie Baker (Gold Coast, Australia / Scottsdale CC) chipped in two hits in the opener.
How It Happened – Game 2
- Valpo played from behind early as Arkansas State notched single tallies in each of the first two innings.
- The visitors made their way onto the scoreboard in the fourth, manufacturing a run thanks to a rally that started with a bunt single by Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson). Dent crossed the dish on a sacrifice fly by Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean).
- The Red Wolves responded with a three-run bottom of the fifth, boosting the lead to 5-1. The sixth saw the hosts score twice more to make it 7-1.
Inside the Game – Game 2
- Shaikin accounted for two of the team’s four hits. His double was the lone extra-base knock of the game for Valpo.
- Jon Tieman (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge) took his first loss of the year after allowing five runs on four hits while striking out six and walking six over 4 2/3 innings.
- Michael Mommersteeg (St. Thomas, Ont., Canada / St. Joseph’s) came out of the bullpen and heaved 2 2/3 scoreless frames without allowing a hit. He walked two and fanned three.
The rain-altered series will conclude on Monday at noon CT in Jonesboro. Links to live video (subscription only), audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com as freshman Colin Fields takes the mound for Valpo.