April 13, 2024123456789RHE
Win: McCluskey (1-3) 5.020016
Loss: LISS (2-1) 2.053312
RANDO (BEL) 533101
Schmack (VALPO) 512000
Maka (VALPO) 512200
Husmann (VALPO) 412210
Renfro (VALPO) 502100
Baseball Rallies for Balk-Off Win Over Belmont
Saturday, April 13, 2024
Baseball Rallies for Balk-Off Win Over Belmont
Griffin McCluskey picked up the win with five scoreless innings out of the bullpen.

The path to get there may not have been how the Valparaiso University baseball team drew it up, but Saturday’s result was exactly what the Beacons needed as the team came from 7-0 down to beat Belmont 10-9, snapping a five-game losing streak and leveling this weekend’s series at one victory apiece. Valpo walked off with three runs in the bottom of the ninth, including a game-ending balk as Carson Husmann (Hanna, Ind. / South Central [Bradley]) broke for the plate as the pitcher began his windup, leading to the balk that sent Valpo into celebration mode on a sunny and pleasant day at Emory G. Bauer Field.

How It Happened

  • The game had humble beginnings from a Valpo perspective as Belmont got four in the top of the first including a three-run homer by Jeff Clarke.
  • Mason Landers drilled a three-run bomb in the top of the second, and suddenly the wheels appeared to be off early with Belmont leading 7-0 through an inning and a half.
  • One of two crucial innings of the day – and of the Valpo season for that matter – was the bottom of second. Three singles and two walks started the inning as the first five Valpo batters reached, including a two-run single by Kade Reinertson (Huxley, Iowa / Ballard Community) and a run-scoring hit by Alex Thurston (Fowler, Ind. / Benton Central).
  • A key blow of the frame was a two-run double down the first-base line by Ryan Maka (Oak Forest, Ill. / Oak Forest), then Brady Renfro (Antigo, Wis. / Antigo) lifted a fly ball to center that was lost in the sun and went for an RBI double to cut the lead to 7-6.
  • A solo homer led off the top of the third to extend the edge back to two at 8-6, but Valpo got that run right back in the bottom of the inning as Brady Nowicki (Big Bend, Wis. / Mukwonago [Indiana Hills CC]) drilled a long ball to left to make it 8-7.
  • The slugfest continued in the top of the fourth with another solo shot for Belmont making it 9-7.
  • After a rare rough outing by Valpo ace Connor Lockwood (Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville) in which he allowed nine runs on nine hits including four home runs while walking none and striking out four in four innings, Valpo turned to Griffin McCluskey (Normal, Ill. / Normal Community) beginning in the fifth inning. McCluskey had a heroic day out of the bullpen, allowing just two hits and one walk over five shutout innings while striking out six.
  • Although McCluskey kept the Bruins at bay, what had been a slugfest through three and a half evolved into a mound showdown. Neither team scored in the fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth innings and it remained 9-7 Belmont going to the bottom of the ninth.
  • The inning started with a single through the right side by Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central), then Maka doubled to right center and Husmann ripped a two-run single to tie the game at nine. After scooting to third on a knock by Renfro, Husmann broke for the plate and prompted the walk-off balk.  

Inside the Game

  • This was Valpo’s second win this season when trailing after eight innings, joining the 10-5, 10-inning win over The Citadel on March 8.
  • McCluskey picked up his first win of the season and the seventh of his collegiate career. He got back on track with the clutch outing after entering the game with an 0-3 record and 10.12 ERA over 18 2/3 innings this season.
  • This was Valpo’s first walk-off win since a 7-6, 11-inning victory over Milwaukee on March 28, 2023. Kaleb Hannahs ended that one with a double.
  • This was Valpo’s sixth one-run game of the season as the Beacons improved to 2-4 in such contests. The Beacons have a knack for winning the close ones at home as they are 5-0 in one-run games played at Emory G. Bauer Field over the last two seasons.
  • Nowicki’s home run was the first of his three-year Valpo career.
  • Maka doubled twice, the fourth time a Valpo player has had multiple doubles in a game this season.
  • Schmack enjoyed two hits, the first of which represented a career milestone, the 200th of his collegiate career. He was one of four Beacons with a multi-hit game, joining Maka, Husmann and Renfro.
  • Valpo outhit Belmont 13-11 and Valpo pitching issued just one base on balls.
  • The 10 runs tied for the team’s second-highest total of the season (13 March 31 vs. Bradley; 10 March 8 at The Citadel.)
  • Head coach Brian Schmack picked up his 199th career win, needing one more to become the third skipper in program history to reach the 200 milestone.

Up Next

Valpo (11-21, 3-8 MVC) will close out the three-game series with Sunday’s 1 p.m. rubber match at Emory G. Bauer Field. The game will air on ESPN+.