A masterful season on the mound for Valparaiso University right-hander Colin Fields (Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville) continued on Saturday afternoon at Emory G. Bauer Field, but the right-hander’s dazzling effort against a quality opponent was not enough in a 2-0 setback to Indiana State to open Missouri Valley Conference play. The Sycamores, a team that earned an at-large NCAA Regional berth last season, scored the only runs of the game in the top of the ninth.
How It Happened
- Indiana State stranded a runner at third in the top of the first as a two-out triple went to waste. Catcher Angel DiFederico (New Haven, Ind. / New Haven) cut down a runner attempting to steal, helping keep the Sycamores off the board in the opening inning.
- Fields worked around a leadoff double in the second, then cruised through a 1-2-3 third. The Beacon ace struck out a pair in the fourth, and faced the minimum yet again in the fifth.
- The biggest threat to that point in the game by either team occurred in the top of the sixth, when Indiana State had runners at second and third with nobody out following a fly-ball double to center that got over the head of the Valpo center fielder. Fields struck out three of the next four hitters with a walk mixed in, and Indiana State stranded the bases loaded. The final out of the inning created an electric scene in the fired-up Valpo dugout.
- That marked the end of Fields’ day as his pitch count had reached 102. Nolan Lebamoff (Fort Wayne, Ind. / Carroll [Kankakee CC]) came out of the bullpen and sent down the side in order in the seventh before putting up another zero in the eighth. Lebamoff departed with a runner at second and one away in the top of the ninth, and that runner eventually scored the go-ahead tally on a safety squeeze bunt. The Sycamores got an insurance run on a two-out single, before DiFederico cut down another runner trying to swipe second to retire the side.
- The Valpo bats bounced into three double plays, which occurred in the first, fourth and eighth innings. The Beacons had little answer for Indiana State ace Matt Jachec, who improved to 7-1 by scattering six hits – all singles – in eight shutout innings while walking none and striking out three. Joey Hurth struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth for his fifth save.
Inside the Game
- Fields’ glowing final line featured six shutout innings of five-hit ball while walking three and striking out eight. He has fanned a league-leading 73 hitters this season, including seven or more in each of his eight starts.
- Fields, who received no decision, advanced two places on Valpo’s career strikeout list on Saturday. He surpassed Richard Beumer (1959-1962, 217) and Tom Starck (2001-2004, 222) to jump into eighth in program history with 223 career strikeouts. Fields’ next target is his former teammate Jon Tieman, who is seventh at 244.
- This was Valpo’s ninth game this season decided by two runs or fewer as the Beacons slipped to 4-5 in such contests.
- Indiana State entered the game leading the Missouri Valley Conference and ranking 16th nationally with a .309 team batting average. The Sycamores were picked second in the MVC preseason poll.
- Valpo got two hits apiece from Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) and Nolan Tucker (Cedar Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central). Schmack now leads the team with 11 multi-hit games. Meanwhile, Kaleb Hannahs (West Terre Haute, Ind. / West Vigo) saw his 11-game hitting streak come to an end.
Valpo and Indiana State will conclude the series with a noon doubleheader on Sunday at Emory G. Bauer Field. The games will be broadcast on ESPN3 with links to live video and stats available on ValpoAthletics.com. For in-game updates, follow @ValpoBaseball on Twitter.