Sophomore Josh Cottrill (Pewaukee, Wis. / Pewaukee) turned in the best outing of his collegiate career in relief and the offense slugged two home runs and pounded out 12 hits, but an early hole was too much to overcome as the Valparaiso University baseball team fell 10-9 to Belmont in a Missouri Valley Conference Tournament elimination game on Wednesday afternoon at Bob Warn Field in Terre Haute, Ind. This puts the finishing touches on a solid season for the Beacons, who boasted their highest overall and MVC-only win totals and winning percentages since joining the league.
How It Happened
- Valpo struck first in the second inning, when Kaleb Hannahs (West Terre Haute, Ind. / West Vigo) clubbed a two-run double to plate a pair. Two batters later, Alex Thurston (Fowler, Ind. / Benton Central) hugged a two-bagger down the left-field line to allow Hannahs to trot home, expanding the early edge to 3-0.
- Belmont responded with nine runs in the bottom of the second inning. Max Blessinger had a two-run homer and Bradey Heaton hit a grand slam.
- Valpo went to the bullpen in the third, and Cottrill retired the side in order in his first frame on the bump.
- The Beacons took a bite out of the deficit in the fourth, when Thurston went the other way with a two-run homer to right to reduce the Belmont lead to four.
- Cottrill put up another 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the fourth.
- Valpo moved another step closer in the fifth when Brady Renfro (Antigo, Wis. / Antigo) drove in a run with a bouncer to first. That whittled the Bruin surplus to three at 9-6.
- Cottrill kept it rolling in the last of the fifth as he compiled his third consecutive perfect inning, completing a flawless trip around the batting order.
- In the top of the sixth, Maka drove in a run with a fielder’s choice bouncer, then Valpo plated another when Jake Skrine (Longmont, Colo. / Mead [Indiana]) doubled down the left-field line to shrink the lead to one at 9-8.
- Belmont picked up an unearned tally due to an errant throw to first on a bunt in the bottom of the sixth, extending the edge to 10-8.
- Cottrill twirled his fourth flawless frame of the day in the eighth to keep the margin at two.
- Schmack went yack to the deepest part of the park in dead center in the bottom of the seventh, slimming the gap to one at 10-9. Valpo had a runner make an out on the bases by breaking for second as a pickoff throw went to first prior to the longball, which otherwise would have tied the game.
- Cottrill worked another 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the eighth to finish off an incredible day. He received an assist from Alex Ryan (Lake Mills, Wis. / Lakeside Lutheran), who made a sprawling catch in center.
Inside the Game
- Thurston’s home run was his second of the season and the third of his career.
- Schmack’s home run was his ninth of the season and his 18th in a Valpo uniform.
- Cottrill’s final line featured six innings of one-hit ball while walking none and striking out three. He allowed one run and it was unearned.
- The Beacons finished with an even 50 home runs for the season, their highest total since 2001. The team surpassed the 2002 campaign for the fourth most home runs in a single season in program history with the two bombs on Wednesday.
- Valpo finished the year with a .386 team on-base percentage, the program’s best since 2001 and tied for the fifth best in program history.
- Valpo enjoyed its first 20-win season since 2017 and its highest overall win total, MVC win total (10), overall winning percentage (.426) and MVC winning percentage (.370) since joining The Valley prior to the 2018 campaign.
- Valpo finished the season with a .973 fielding percentage, tying a program record that was set in 2018.
- Skrine finished with 12 home runs, the most by a Valpo player since Dan Schrum blasted 13 in 2002.
- Maka finished the season with 45 RBIs, the most by a Valpo player since Blake Billinger had 46 in 2018.