The Valparaiso University baseball team came back to tie Sunday’s game in the seventh inning, but No. 24 South Carolina responded with three in the seventh and four in the eighth to pull away for a 12-6 victory. Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) and Brent Jones (Ankeny, Iowa / Ankeny Centennial [Iowa Central]) turned in three hits apiece and both homered in the series finale at Founders Park in Columbia, S.C.
How It Happened
- Much like Saturday’s game, Sunday’s matinee started with the starting pitchers in control early. Neither Colin Fields (Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville) nor Brett Kerry allowed a base runner through the first two innings.
- The Gamecocks (13-3) got on the board in the third by virtue of an Ian Jenkins solo homer.
- Freshman Jeremy Drudge (Plymouth, Ind. / Plymouth) tied the game in the fourth with a two-out, run-scoring double. However, Jacob Olson cracked a three-run homer in the bottom of the inning to put the hosts back up 4-1. An insurance tally in the fifth made it 5-1.
- A two-run homer by Billinger highlighted a three-run sixth for Valpo, then the Brown & Gold tied the game at five in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth).
- Olson’s second three-run blast of the day put South Carolina right back on top in the bottom of the seventh. Jones led off the top of the eighth with a solo homer to make it 8-6.
- South Carolina scored four times in the bottom of the eighth to break it open.
Inside the Game
- This marked the second time this season Valpo had two home runs in a game as Billinger and Jones both went yard. The last time was Feb. 24 at Arkansas State, when Billinger accounted for both long balls.
- Billinger’s blast was his fourth of the season and the 11th of his Valpo career, while Jones clubbed his first home run in a Valpo uniform.
- Fields received no decision after allowing five runs on five hits, one walk and six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland) did not permit a run in an inning of work. Tanner Skimore (Timberville, Va. / Broadway [Potomac St.]) took the defeat, his first decision of the year.
- Kerry allowed three runs on six hits in five innings while striking out six and walking none for South Carolina. The winner in relief was Sawyer Bridges (1-0), while TJ Shook picked up his first save.
- Jones had his fourth multi-hit game of the year and his first three-hit output, while Billinger had his second three-hit game and third multi-hit showing.
- Jones has hit safely in seven consecutive games.
The stretch of eight straight games against teams that qualified for NCAA Regionals last season will conclude on Tuesday as Valpo rounds out its spring trip with a stop in Cookeville, Tenn. to take on Tennessee Tech. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+. Links to live video and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.