The Valparaiso University baseball team’s attempt to rally fell shy on Friday afternoon as visiting Bradley edged the Beacons 7-6 in a tightly-contested series opener at Emory G. Bauer Field. Freshman Ryan Maka (Oak Forest, Ill. / Oak Forest) turned in a three-homer game, ripping solo shots to right in the third, seventh and ninth.
How It Happened
- Bradley raced out to a 5-0 lead by scoring on a solo homer in the first, a two-run single in the second and a two-run homer in the third. On the flip side, Valpo stranded the bases loaded in the first and runners at second and third in the second.
- Valpo battled back in the bottom of the third when Nolan Tucker (Cedar Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central) yanked a run-scoring double and eventually dashed home on a wild pitch before Maka connected on his first home run of the day.
- Bradley extended its trend of scoring in each inning by pushing across single runs in the fourth and fifth frames.
- Maka’s second long ball came in the seventh and cut the lead to 7-4, then Alex Thurston (Fowler, Ind. / Benton Central) singled to drive in Alex Ryan (Lake Mills, Wis. / Lakeside Lutheran), who had doubled, cutting the lead to two.
- Valpo stranded a runner at second in the eighth, then Maka led off the ninth by completing his three-homer game. A two-out double by Thurston put the potential tying run in scoring position, but he was stranded there as Bradley escaped with the win.
Inside the Game
- Maka became the 50th player nationally and second player in the Missouri Valley Conference with a three-homer game this season, joining Illinois State’s Ryan Cermak (April 6 vs. Western Illinois). He became the first Valley player with a three-homer contest in league play this year.
- Maka became the first Valpo player with a three-homer game since Blake Billinger on May 8, 2018 at Western Michigan. Prior to that, the last Valpo three-homer game was Andrew Quinnette in 2008.
- Maka had one collegiate home run prior to Friday.
- Maka became the fourth Valpo player to notch four or more hits in a game this season. He joined Nolan Tucker (twice), Kaleb Hannahs and Alex Thurston. His four hits marked a career high, as did his three RBIs.
- Brady Renfro (Antigo, Wis. / Antigo) lashed out three hits, his third three-hit game of the year and ninth multi-hit output. Thurston and Adam Brauch (Waukee, Iowa / Dowling Catholic) added two hits apiece, while Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) worked three walks.
- The Valpo bullpen continued its recent stretch of success as Connor Lockwood (Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville) and Bobby Nowak (Cedar Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central [Kankakee]) combined for four shutout innings of three-hit ball while walking one and striking out six.
- This marked the third straight weekend series opener where Valpo fell despite outhitting the opposition. The Beacons registered 14 hits to Bradley’s 11.
- Valpo starting pitcher Colin Fields (Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville) struck out nine, the 12th time in 13 starts this season that he’s struck out seven or more. With his first strikeout of the day, Fields became the first Valpo player since 2010 to reach a three-digit strikeout total in a season while also hitting the 250-career-strikeout milestone.
- Fields surpassed Richard Scheub (1949) for fifth in single-season program history. He finished the day with 108 strikeouts this season, fifth in program history and 19 away from tying the single-season program record.
- Fields advanced two places on the career strikeout list on Friday, boosting his career total to 258, which ranks fifth in program history. He passed Shawn Barker (1987-1990, 253) and Bryce Shafer (2008-2010, 250) in Friday’s game against the Braves.
- The Beacons dropped to 3-3 in one-run games and 6-7 in games decided by two runs or fewer.
Valpo (14-29, 3-13 MVC) and Bradley will continue the series on Saturday at 1 p.m. A link to live stats is available on ValpoAthletics.com.