February 16, 202412345678RHE
Alabama State0121343216151
Win: Jose Almazan (1-0) 5.043315
Loss: McCluskey (0-1) 4.167623
Hannahs (VALPO) 411101
Renfro (VALPO) 301010
Schmack (VALPO) 411000
Giusti (VALPO) 411101
Ryan (VALPO) 311000
Patton (VALPO) 201100
Thurston (VALPO) 311101
Isaiah Landry (ALST) 544300
Beacons Launch Three Home Runs, Alabama State Takes Series Opener
Friday, February 16, 2024
Beacons Launch Three Home Runs, Alabama State Takes Series Opener
Alex Thurston hit one of Valpo's three home runs on Friday. (David Campbell)

After hitting 50 home runs last season to mark the program’s highest total since 2001, the Valparaiso University baseball team picked up right where it left off by launching three big flies on Opening Night as the season got underway on Friday in Montgomery, Ala. Host Alabama State pulled away to beat the Beacons 16-5 in eight innings.

How It Happened

  • Alabama State manufactured a run without the benefit of a hit in the bottom of the second, a tally that was unearned due to a passed ball.
  • Valpo got even in the third when Kaleb Hannahs (West Terre Haute, Ind. / West Vigo) belted a two-out solo shot that cleared the center-field fence and made it 1-1.
  • There were two outs with nothing across in the bottom of the third, but Alabama State used back-to-back extra-base hits including a triple that could not be corralled in left to drive in a pair and regain the lead at 3-1 through three.
  • In his Valpo debut, Connor Giusti (Hoffman Estates, Ill. / Fremd [Wisconsin Oshkosh]) wasted no time in delivering his first long ball, homering to left in the fourth to cut the Alabama State lead to 3-2.
  • The Hornets stung back in the bottom of the fourth with a solo shot of their own to make it 4-2.
  • The slugfest continued in the fifth when Alex Thurston (Fowler, Ind. / Benton Central) became the third Beacon to notch a solo home run in the game. His traveled down the left-field line to cut the lead back to one at 4-3.
  • The hosts used a run-scoring double to up the lead back to two at 5-3 in the bottom of the fifth. Two more run-scoring singles boosted the edge to 7-3.
  • Valpo picked up an unearned run when Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) doubled and scored in the top of the sixth, but Alabama State broke it open with four in the bottom of the inning including a bases-clearing, two-out double that made it 11-4.
  • Newcomer Liam Patton (Barrington, Ill. / Warsaw [Wabash]) delivered a pinch-hit double to drive in a run in his first Valpo plate appearance, cutting the lead to 11-5.
  • The Hornets added three in the seventh and invoked the 10-run rule with a two-run homer to end the game in the bottom of the eighth.

Inside the Game

  • Hannahs hammered his ninth career home run and already matched his season home run total from a year ago just one game into 2024.  
  • Thurston’s home run was his fourth in a Valpo uniform. He hit two last year.
  • Giusti had 10 career home runs over four seasons at Wisconsin Oshkosh.
  • The seven Beacon hits came from seven different players.
  • Starter Griffin McCluskey (Normal, Ill. / Normal Community) took the defeat, allowing seven runs (six earned) on six hits in 4 1/3 innings. The two men who came on in relief both made their Valpo debuts – Bryce Konitzer and Bennett Musser.
  • The three home runs marked Valpo’s highest total since March 5, 2023 when the team slugged three long balls at Little Rock. 

Up Next

Valpo (0-1) and Alabama State will play a doubleheader on Saturday starting at 1 p.m. in Montgomery, Ala. Links to live video (Hornets Sports Network, subscription only) and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.