The route may have been circuitous, but the bottom line remains unchanged: The Valparaiso University baseball team survived and advanced late Tuesday evening at Itchy Jones Stadium in Carbondale, Ill.
An unearned run helped Missouri State get even in the bottom of the ninth to send the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament opening-round game to extra innings, but that set up Parker Johnson’s (Golden Valley, Minn. / Hopkins) heroics in the top of the 10th. The freshman infielder delivered a two-out, two-run double in Valpo’s 6-4 victory over the Bears, earning a date with top-seeded DBU on Wednesday morning after nailing down the first triumph over Missouri State in program history.
On a day where a rookie served as the offensive hero, a pair of seniors got it done on the mound. Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland) worked 4 1/3 innings of three-hit ball and permitted just two runs before giving way to his longtime teammate Jon Tieman (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge), who earned the win by yielding just one earned run on three hits over 5 2/3 frames.
How It Happened
- Valpo jumped in front in the opening inning as Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) ripped a two-out hit to plate Kaleb Hannahs (West Terre Haute, Ind. / West Vigo) for the game’s first run.
- Rhodehouse worked a scoreless first, sandwiching a pair of strikeouts around a nifty defensive play by Hannahs at third. Rhodehouse, who was named an All-MVC Second Team choice earlier in the day, rolled through a 1-2-3 second inning to keep it 1-0 Valpo.
- Rhodehouse struck out a pair in the third, then received help from a nice play by Alex Thurston (Fowler, Ind. / Benton Central) on a slow bouncer to short to make it “nine up, nine down” the first time through the Bears order.
- Missouri State got two runs in the fourth inning that included an RBI triple high off the wall in left. That inning allowed the Bears to jump in front 2-1.
- Valpo wrestled the lead back in the fifth as Hannahs and Brady Renfro (Antigo, Wis. / Antigo) drove in runs with ground outs.
- Tieman was summoned from the Valpo bullpen with the potential tying run at second in the bottom of the fifth. He caught consecutive Missouri State hitters looking to escape the inning unscathed with the 3-2 lead intact.
- Valpo added on in the seventh as Hannahs lined a run-scoring single to right to expand the cushion to two at 4-2.
- Missouri State got a run on a two-out hit in the seventh, but Tieman induced an inning-ending pop fly to keep Valpo in front 4-3. The Bears threatened again in the eighth by getting the potential tying run to third, but Tieman got an inning-ending ground ball.
- Missouri State tied the game with an unearned run in the bottom of the ninth to send the game to extras.
- Johnson ripped a two-out, two-run double to right center in the top of the 10th to put Valpo back in front 6-4. Schmack turned a 3-6 double play for the first two outs of the bottom of the ninth, then the first baseman fed Tieman for a 3-1 putout to account for the final out.
Inside the Game
- Valpo broke through with its first-ever win over the Bears after previously holding an 0-13 mark in a head-to-head series that dates back to 1985. Valpo finished the regular season by losing four straight at Missouri State, but the fifth game was the one that dictated which team extended its season. Three of those four losses in the series in Springfield came by one run.
- This marks Valpo’s second MVC Tournament victory and first since beating DBU 13-10 on May 23, 2018 in Dallas in the program’s first-ever MVC Tournament Game. Valpo will match up with the Patriots in MVC Tournament play for the third time on Wednesday morning, attempting to avenge a regular-season sweep. Valpo and DBU are 1-1 in MVC Tournament contests with both prior conference tournament showdowns coming in 2018 at Horner Ballpark.
- Valpo played its sixth extra-inning game of the year on Tuesday and improved to 3-3 in games that have required bonus baseball. This was Valpo’s first extra-inning game in a conference tournament setting since playing two extra-inning games in one day on May 23, 2003 at the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament in Tulsa, beating Western Illinois 6-5 in 11 innings before falling to Southern Utah 16-12 in 10.
- Hannahs, Johnson, Thurston and Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) had two hits apiece, helping Valpo outhit the Bears 12-6. Hannahs, who earned the MVC Freshman of the Year honor earlier in the day, enjoyed his team-high 15th multi-hit game of the season.
- In addition, Hannahs extended his on-base streak to 17, moving to within one game of tying Steven Fitzsimmons for the second-longest such streak on the team this season. Brady Renfro owns the longest at 21 games.
- Tieman added four more strikeouts to his career total and now has 244, seventh in program history. Rhodehouse struck out five on Tuesday, boosting his career total to 172.
- A zany opening day of the tournament saw both games go extra innings. Due to a 12-inning marathon between Illinois State and Evansville, Valpo’s game against Missouri State that was scheduled for 7:02 p.m. did not begin until 7:58 p.m. The game ended at 10:57 p.m., just over 11 hours before Valpo’s 10:02 a.m. first pitch on Wednesday against DBU.
Valpo (15-33) advances to take on top-seeded DBU at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. The game will air on ESPN+. Links to live video and stats can be found on ValpoAthletics.com. RHP Ryan Mintz will start Wednesday morning’s game for the Brown & Gold.