Macomb, Ill. - Keith Keslinke had two hits and two RBIs, and Kevin Kutansky added three hits and an RBI as Valpo defeated Western Illinois 5-4 in the second game of a doubleheader. The Leathernecks won the first game 3-2.
Valpo (16-33, 8-12 Mid-Con) will host Chicago State in twinbills both Friday and Saturday beginning at noon each day. The results of the four-game series could determine whether the Crusaders will qualify for the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament held May 27-29 in Shreveport, La.
In Valpo's victory, Eric Brauer (3-1) pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on nine hits. Chris Riley recorded the final out of the fifth inning and Adam Knobel hurled the final 2 innings for his fourth save.
The Crusaders grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first when Mike Arensdorff doubled and scored on Kutansky's RBI single. Valpo extended its advantage to 3-0 in the fourth on Eddie Hannan's RBI groundout and Ryan Manthei's sacrifice fly.
After WIU scored one in the fourth, Valpo increased the lead to 5-0 in the fifth when Arensdorff singled, Kevin Perri reached on a two-base throwing error by the pitcher and Keslinke hammered a one-out, two-run single.
The Leathernecks pulled within 5-3 with two tallies in the fifth. Blake Schultz's RBI single capped off the two-run frame.
Following a scoresless sixth by both teams, WIU scored once in the bottom of seventh and put the potential-tying and winning runs on third and second, respectively, with two outs. Knobel, who struck out the first two batters in the inning, survived a two-out error by the shortstop by inducing Ryan Schmidgall to fly out to left field.
In the first game, Valpo's Harvey Yergin and WIU's Pat Kohorst nearly matched each other inning-by-inning on the mound. Western Illinois (27-33, 13-11) scored one in the third and added two in the eighth to take a 3-0 lead.
Valpo mounted a rally in the ninth, trimming its deficit to 3-2 on Troy Garrett's two-out, two-run single. Keslinke and Hannan, who both delivered one-out singles, scored on the clutch hit. Kohorst recorded the final out of the contest on a strikeout.
Yergin (2-5) pitched 8 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits, while fanning two and walking three. Kohorst (7-5) went the distance, yielding two runs on seven hits, while striking out seven and walking three.
Arensdorff and Keslinke finished the doubleheader with three hits each.
Valpo hosts two non-conference games before the big weekend series. The Crusaders entertain Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday beginning at 3 p.m. On Wednesday, Valpo hosts Youngstown State at 3 p.m.