The Valparaiso University baseball team received several strong pitching performances on Friday’s first day of the Lake Area Classic in Lake Charles, La. However, the team’s annual spring break trip started with a pair of losses against quality competition as Valpo fell 5-1 to Southern Miss and 4-2 to host McNeese State, both teams that played in NCAA Regionals last season.
How It Happened – Southern Miss
- Valpo struck first in the top of the third. Nolan Tucker (Cedar, Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central) drew a leadoff walk, then Troy Jones (Orland Park, Ill. / Carl Sandburg [Triton]) ripped a run-scoring double down the left-field line. Valpo had a chance for more with two on and nobody out, but settled for the single tally to inch ahead 1-0.
- The Eagles (7-2) started the third with a single, a double and a sacrifice fly to grab the run back and tie the game at one. Valpo freshman pitcher Ryan Mintz (Lombard, Ill. / Willowbrook), who made his first start of the season, limited the damage to a single tally, working out of the third with the game still tied 1-1.
- Mintz wiggled out of a serious jam in the bottom of the fourth, as a single and a double gave Southern Miss runners at second and third with only one away. The rookie righty recorded a strikeout and induced a pop fly on the infield to escape unscathed and keep it 1-1.
- A leadoff double started the sixth against Mintz, then with a man at third and one away Danny Lynch smoked a go-ahead two-run homer to right to put the Eagles on top 3-1.
- Freshman Jacob Rosenkranz (Lincolnshire, Ill. / Stevenson) inherited a bases-full, one-out jam when he was summoned from the bullpen in the bottom of the seventh. He coaxed an inning-ending, 6-4-3 twin-killing to retire the side and keep the deficit at two.
- The Eagles tacked on in the eighth. The first run of the frame crossed the plate on an error as a ground ball to first resulted in an errant throw to a covering Rosenkranz. Southern Miss added on via a run-scoring single later in the inning to make it 5-1.
Inside the Game – Southern Miss
- Valpo scored the first run of the game for the fifth time in the first seven games of the season.
- Mintz became the first Valpo pitcher to work more than five innings this season, leaving with one out in the seventh and his team trailing 3-1 with two of the three runs coming on one swing of the bat in the sixth. He yielded just three runs on seven hits and only one walk while tossing 92 pitches and striking out three.
- A quality start by Mintz came in a losing effort as Southern Miss pitching limited Valpo to two hits and racked up 14 strikeouts.
- The game came against a high tier foe as Southern Miss won 40 games en route to the Conference USA title and a trip to NCAA Regionals last season.
- Tucker reached base three times via two walks and a hit.
How It Happened – McNeese State
- Valpo produced a first-inning run as the Brown & Gold made McNeese State pay for starting the game with three straight walks. Jones grounded out to the pitcher to drive in the run. A catcher’s interference reloaded the bases with only one away, but the Cowboys limited the damage to one.
- Senior Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland) departed after striking out four over two scoreless innings in his start.
- McNeese wrestled the lead away in the bottom of the third with a pair of run-scoring singles.
- It remained 2-1 in favor of the Cowboys until the top of the sixth, when Kevin Barry (Bartlett, Ill. / South Elgin) legged out an infield hit, moved to second on a wild pickoff throw, scooted to third on a ground ball to short and dashed home on a wild pitch. That manufactured run helped Valpo get even and create a 2-2 tie.
- The biggest hit of the game came with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, when Julian Gonzales cracked a triple to left center, driving in a pair to put McNeese ahead 4-2. That edge would hold as Valpo did not score in the ninth.
Inside the Game – McNeese State
- Valpo scored first for the sixth time in eight games this season.
- Freshman Trent Turzenski (Burlington, Wis. / Burlington) took the defeat despite limiting the Cowboys to four runs on eight hits in a six-inning relief outing. He permitted just one walk and accrued an eye-popping total of 11 strikeouts.
- McNeese is the defending Southland Conference champion, won 35 games a year ago and went to the NCAA Regionals.
- Tucker remained an on-base machine in the second game on Friday. Although he went 0-for-2, the freshman worked three walks, reaching base three times for the third straight game.
- The Brown & Gold had just four hits but did take eight walks in the contest.
Valpo (1-7) will continue the Lake Area Classic on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT vs. Southern Miss in Lake Charles, La. A live video feed is available courtesy of McNeese State (subscription required) and there is a live audio broadcast courtesy of Southern Miss. Links to live video, audio and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.