Quality starting pitching, solid relief work, small ball early and power hitting late all added up to a series-opening victory for the Valparaiso University baseball team on Friday night as the Beacons went on the road and bested Evansville 6-1. Griffin McCluskey (Normal, Ill. / Normal Community) turned in 7 1/3 strong innings before Grant Jablonski (Mishawaka, Ind. / Mishawaka) went the rest of the way to nail it down.
How It Happened
- Valpo played from behind early as two batters into the bottom of the first, Evansville had used a single and a double to jump out to a 1-0 lead. The fast start was not a sign of things to come for the Purple Aces’ offense against McCluskey.
- The Beacons manufactured a run without the benefit of a hit in the top of the second, taking advantage of a walk and hit batter when Kade Reinertson (Huxley, Iowa / Ballard) started the Valpo scoring with a grounder to short.
- McCluskey permitted a bunt single in the bottom of the second, but that would be the last Purple Ace hit until the sixth. He sent down seven straight including 1-2-3 frames in both the third and fourth.
- The Valpo righty again faced the minimum in the fifth as a leadoff walk was erased on a double play.
- Evansville went to the bullpen in the top of the sixth, and the Beacon bats took advantage when Reinertson placed a double down the right-field line for his second RBI of the game to put the team in front 2-1. Valpo added to the lead thanks to a squeeze bunt by Alex Thurston (Fowler, Ind. / Benton Central) that allowed Ryan Maka (Oak Forest, Ill. / Oak Forest) to scamper home and make it 3-1.
- A strike him out, throw him out double play ended the UE seventh, then McCluskey finally reached the end of his quality day with one out in the eighth. Jablonski got out of that inning with nothing across.
- Both halves of the ninth inning put exclamation marks on the series-opening win. Nolan Tucker (Cedar Lake, Ind. South Central) and Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) hit back-to-back jacks in the ninth – with Tucker’s coming with a man aboard – to balloon the lead to 6-1. In the bottom of the frame, Jablonski struck out the side to seal the triumph.
Inside the Game
- Hannahs had a team-high three hits including a pair of doubles. Schmack added two hits.
- Tucker’s home run was his fourth this season and the sixth of his collegiate career.
- Schmack’s long ball was his fifth this season and the 14th of his career.
- After a shaky defensive series against Murray State, Valpo played clean defense on Friday as neither team committed an error.
- McCluskey’s final line featured 7 1/3 innings of one-run, four-hit ball while striking out six. He achieved his second win of the season and the fourth of his collegiate career.
- Jablonski worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings without allowing a hit and walked one while striking out four. The save was the first of his collegiate career.
- Renfro walked twice to extend his on-base streak to 22.
Valpo (10-12, 2-5 MVC) and Evansville will continue the series with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. There will be no video stream but live video and stats courtesy of Evansville Athletics are available with the links posted on ValpoAthletics.com.