Tulsa, Okla. – Southern Utah scored five runs in the top of the 10th inning and held on to defeat Valpo 16-12 in an elimination game at the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament. Sean Peickert had four hits and four RBIs for the Crusaders, while Eddie Hannan added four hits and one RBI. Kyle Young tallied two hits and three RBIs. Valpo finished the season with a 22-33-1 record.
After trailing 11-9, the Crusaders tied the game in the bottom of the eighth. Kevin Kutansky, who had three hits and two RBIs, delivered a RBI single and Eric Snyder slapped a two-out RBI single to knot the contest at 11-11.
Valpo, which had 20 hits in the contest, had the winning run on third in the ninth with one out and loaded the bases with two outs, but was unable to score. Southern Utah (21-28) scored five runs in the 10th without the benefit of a hit. The decisive rally featured three walks, three stolen bases, two errors, a hit-by-pitch, a wild pitch and a passed ball.
Peickert belted a RBI double – his second of the game – in the bottom of the 10th to account for the final score. The senior third baseman had eight hits in 13 at bats on the day as the Crusaders edged Western Illinois 6-5 in 11 innings in the early game Friday.
Valpo grabbed a 3-0 lead in the second on Snyder’s RBI single and Peickert’s two-run double. The Thunderbirds trimmed their deficit to 3-2 in the third before Hannan and Kutansky produced RBI singles in the third. Southern Utah tied the score at 5-5 with three runs in the fourth.
Young gave the Crusaders an 8-6 lead with a RBI double in the fifth and a two-run single in the sixth. The Thunderbirds plated two runs in the seventh before Peickert hammered a solo homer in the bottom half of the 7th to give Valpo a 9-8 advantage. Southern Utah responded with three runs in the eighth on three hits and an error to take an 11-9 lead.
Todd Evans started on the mound for Valpo and pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs on seven hits. The senior righthander fanned two and walked four. Three relievers followed with Jordan Smolar (0-1) suffering the loss. Southern Utah used five pitchers.
Snyder finished with three hits and two RBIs and Jeff Mandsager added two hits, including one of five Valpo doubles.
Top seed Oral Roberts, which is 2-0 in the double-elimination Mid-Con Tournament, will play Southern Utah (2-1) on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the first championship game. If Southern Utah wins, the two teams will square off in a decisive title game at 4:30 p.m. The tournament champion earns the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.