The Valparaiso University baseball team nearly erased an eight-run deficit in a narrow 9-7 setback in Game 1 of Friday’s doubleheader at Granderson Stadium in Chicago, but the Beacons responded with an 8-3 victory in Game 2 to salvage a split with host UIC. Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) had a monster day by reaching base 10 times over the two games, while Colin Fields (Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville) turned in another stellar pitching performance in the nightcap to up his record to 4-0.
How It Happened – Game 1
- The Beacons threatened in the second inning with two on and one away, but the Flames worked out of it unscathed. Valpo starter Trent Turzenski (Burlington, Wis. / Burlington) worked a scoreless top of the first, but UIC pushed across a pair of runs in the second thanks to an uprising that started with two outs and nobody on base.
- Valpo created a scoring chance again in the third, but stranded the bases loaded as UIC kept its 2-0 lead intact. In the bottom of the inning, UIC had a runner at third with one away but Turzenski worked out of the inning without any damage.
- UIC added four runs (two earned) in the fourth, an inning that ended with an excellent sprawling grab by Alex Ryan (Lake Mills, Wis. / Lakeside Lutheran) in center. That frame increased the edge to 6-0.
- UIC added two in the bottom of the fifth to increase the gap to 8-0, then the Beacons got on the board in the top of the sixth. Ryan ripped a triple into the left-field corner, then trotted home as Alex Thurston (Fowler, Ind. / Benton Central) lifted a sacrifice fly to make it 8-1.
- The Flames picked up an unearned run in the sixth to boost the lead back to eight. Josh Cottrill (Pewaukee, Wis. / Pewaukee) came in from the bullpen and retired both batters he faced in the sixth including a strikeout.
- The Beacons put up five runs in the seventh to trim the lead to 9-6. That inning featured a run-scoring single by Angel DiFederico (New Haven, Ind. / New Haven), a base hit by Kaleb Hannahs that drove in a pair and a two-run double by Schmack narrowly missed a home run.
- Cottrill did excellent work after entering the game. He sent down the side in order in both the seventh and eighth innings, sending down all eight men he faced over 2 2/3 flawless frames.
- Nolan Tucker (Cedar Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central) led off the ninth with a double and eventually came around to score. Valpo had runners at second and third with one away with the potential tying run in scoring position, but the Flames notched the final two outs to hang on for the 9-7 win.
Inside the Game – Game 1
- Valpo had no shortage of runners on base, but struggled to capitalize on scoring chances. The Beacons stranded 15. They fell despite outhitting the Flames 14-11. The 14 hits tied for the team’s second most this season and marked Valpo’s highest hit total in a loss this year.
- Schmack had a massive game offensively, reaching base five times. He posted his eighth multi-hit game of the season, the second most on the squad. The Valpo left fielder had three hits including a double plus a pair of walks.
- Eight of the nine batters in the Valpo starting lineup notched at least one hit.
- DiFederico, Tucker and Adam Brauch (Waukee, Iowa / Dowling Catholic) joined Schmack with multi-hit efforts. DiFedierco had his fifth multi-hit game, while Tucker posted his third, all in the last four ballgames. Tucker finished with three hits including a pair of doubles.
- Ryan’s triple was his second of his collegiate career, both this season.
How It Happened – Game 2
- Valpo stranded the bases juiced in the first and left two more in the third to begin Game 2. Meanwhile, Fields put up goose eggs in each of the first three frames, including 1-2-3 performances in the second and third.
- Valpo scored the first run of the game on a bases-loaded single by Thurston in the third that fell in deep left. The Flames turned an inning-ending double play to limit the damage to one.
- Fields continued to roll, facing the minimum in the fourth with help from a caught stealing before putting up another zero in the fifth.
- In the top of the sixth, Valpo added to the lead. Thurston looped another single to left to drive in a pair, then another run scored on a throwing error to expand the Valpo lead to 4-0.
- Fields struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth, lifting his game total to 11.
- Ryan poked a flair to right with the bases full in the seventh, driving in a run to extend the lead to 5-0. Valpo got one more in that frame, as Thurston lifted a sacrifice fly to make it 6-0.
- UIC scored twice in the bottom of the seventh, but Valpo pushed across an unearned run in the top of the eighth to build the lead back to five at 7-2.
- UIC got a run in the bottom of the eighth, but Schmack made an incredible catch while ramming into the left-field fence to end the inning. Schmack ripped a run-scoring single to up the lead back to five in the top of the ninth. Bobby Nowak (Cedar Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central [Kankakee]) came on for the bottom of the ninth and nailed down the victory.
Inside the Game – Game 2
- Fields struck out 13 on Friday and has struck out seven or more in each of his seven starts this year. He reached a double-figure strikeout total for the seventh time in his career. The 13 strikeouts surpassed his previous career high of 11, a mark he reached most recently on March 27 of last season at Butler.
- Fields became the first Valpo pitcher with 13 strikeouts in a game since Jon Gulbransen, who fanned 13 on April 12, 2011 vs. Chicago State.
- In addition, Fields has climbed into the Top 10 in program history in career strikeouts, leapfrogging Chuck Donley (212, 1991-1995) for 10th.
- Fields upped his mark to 4-0 after holding the Flames to two runs (one earned) on just two hits while walking three and striking out 13 in seven innings.
- Thurston racked up four RBIs, becoming the first Valpo player with a four-RBI game this season. The last Valpo player with four or more RBIs in a game was Riley Dent, who had six on May 1 of last season vs. Illinois State and was at Friday’s games at UIC as a spectator, along with numerous other recent alumni who braved the cold.
- Schmack reached base five times in Game 2 and was on base a total of 10 times during Friday’s doubleheader.
- Schmack’s three-hit game paced the team, while Thurston and Ryan Maka (Oak Forest, Ill. / Oak Forest) had two hits apiece. The guests totaled 26 hits over the two games.
Check ValpoAthletics.com on Saturday morning for official word on the third game of the series, which may be impacted by weather.