Playing outdoors for essentially the first time all season after outdoor preseason practice activity in Northwest Indiana was limited due to the winter weather, the Valparaiso University baseball team made progress with each game in this weekend’s season-opening series.
An opener where the rust was evident on Friday gave way to a clean and competitive narrow setback to warm-weather foe Memphis on Saturday. The Beacons took the next step forward on Sunday, defeating the host Tigers 10-8 at FedEx Park in Memphis, Tenn.
How It Happened
- What proved to be a favorable day got off to a rocky start as Memphis held the lead just three batters into their first at-bat of the day. Their leadoff hitter greeted Valpo starting pitcher Jake Miller (Chester, N.Y. / Don Bosco Prep) with a triple, and two batters later their No. 3 hitter jacked a two-run homer.
- Memphis went on to hit for the team cycle in the opening inning. They had a chance for more with runners at second and third and still only one away, but Miller recorded a key strikeout followed by a roller to first that ended the frame.
- The Beacons tied the game in the second by plating two runs on four hits. Brady Renfro (Antigo, Wis. / Antigo) doubled to center to begin the frame and later crossed the dish on a Jeremy Drudge (Plymouth, Ind. / Plymouth) triple. Drudge trotted home himself a moment later when Spencer Warfield (Fullerton, Calif. / Servite) stroked a single to left.
- Miller struck out the side in the bottom of the second, then Valpo grabbed the lead behind a Kaleb Hannahs (West Terre Haute, Ind. / New Haven) home run in the third. Miller again retired the side in order in the bottom of inning number three before a double play and a strikeout helped him escape the fourth with nothing across.
- A two-out single helped the Tigers tie the game in the fifth, but Valpo broke the tie by scoring a half a dozen in the top of the sixth to take a 9-3 lead. That inning started with a solo shot by Renfro but looked as if it may be a one-run frame when the next two batters were retired. However, the Beacons put together a two-out uprising that led to five more runs. After a hit and a walk, Alex Thurston (Fowler, Ind. / Benton Central) clubbed a two-run double. Thurston eventually scored as Angel DiFederico (New Haven, Ind. / New Haven) reached on an error, and later a two-run triple by Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) capped the scoring in the inning.
- Memphis got one back against reliever Connor Lockwood (Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville) with a home run in the bottom of the sixth, but the righty settled in to toss a scoreless seventh and keep the Beacons ahead 9-4.
- Two hits and two walks helped Memphis score one and have the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth when Bobby Nowak (Cedar Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central [Kankakee]) was summoned from the bullpen with Valpo leading 9-5. Nowak notched a swinging strikeout to retire the side.
- Hannahs led off the top of the ninth with his second homer of the day, this one to left center to make it 10-5. The Tigers slugged two home runs of their own in the bottom of the ninth, a solo shot and a two-run blast, to get to within 10-8. But Nowak induced a pop fly in foul territory that was squeezed by Schmack for the game’s final out.
Inside the Game
- Miller recovered from the game’s humble beginning to log five strong innings of three-run, seven-hit ball on a day where the wind was howling out. He struck out six and walked just one while earning the victory in his first collegiate start.
- By virtue of entering the game with the potential tying run at the plate, Nowak was credited with the save, his first in a Valpo uniform.
- Hannahs posted the first multi-homer game by a Valpo player since May 1 of last season, when both Riley Dent and Jonathan Temple had two long balls in a game against Illinois State. Hannahs is already one home run away from tying his season total from a year ago.
- Hannahs enjoyed his second straight three hit game and scored five times over the final two games in this series. His three runs scored on Sunday tied a career high set on May 1 of last season vs. Illinois State.
- Schmack, Renfro, Drudge, Thurston and Adam Brauch (Waukee, Iowa / Dowling Catholic) had two hits apiece on a day where the Beacons pounded out 14 hits, half of which went for extra bases.
- Renfro’s home run was the fifth of the sophomore’s young collegiate career. Drudge drilled his fourth triple in a Valpo uniform, while Schmack smacked his second.
- The 10 runs marked the team’s top total since an identical offensive output on May 8 of last season vs. Bradley.
- Valpo batters did a better job of putting the ball in play, fanning just six times on Sunday after 23 strikeouts over the first two games.
- The two teams combined for seven home runs in the game.
Valpo (1-2) will play a three-game series at Alabama A&M this coming weekend that begins with a doubleheader on Friday. The first pitch of game one is slated for 10 a.m. in Huntsville, Ala.