The Valparaiso University baseball team split a doubleheader on Saturday against Northern Illinois, winning the opener 7-6 before dropping the nightcap 5-2 at Chicago State. Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean) collected three hits in the first game and five for the day including a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning of the victory. Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland) continued his strong junior season by retiring all nine men he faced to earn the win in relief.
How It Happened – Game 1
- Jake Dunham singled home a run in the bottom of the first to provide Northern Illinois with the early lead. Steven Fitzsimmons (Golden Valley, Minn. / Robbinsdale Cooper) made a valiant diving effort and kept the ball in front of him by gloving it on a bounce.
- Valpo used three hits and two walks to put up a three-run third inning. After Dawson smoked a run-scoring single up the middle, Christian Barczi (Naperville, Ill. / Naperville North) knocked a two-out double down the right-field line to drive in a pair and give his team a 3-1 edge.
- The Huskies got a run back as Brendan Joyce led off the bottom of the third with a solo blast to make it 3-2.
- Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) grounded one through the left side in the top of the fourth to drive in a run. Then Valpo added two more as Dawson bounced into a fielder’s choice to drive in one and a wild relay throw to first on that play allowed a second to score, building the lead to 6-2.
- NIU got one back on an RBI double by Josh Mutter in the fourth to make it 6-3.
- Zack Fricke (Arlington Heights, Ill. / Buffalo Grove) came on to pitch the bottom of the fifth for Valpo and put a zero on the board despite working around an error. However, the Huskies scored three times in the sixth to tie the game at six.
- Dawson drilled a solo homer in the eighth to put Valpo ahead 7-6 as he cleared the right-field fence with the blast that proved to be the difference in the game.
- Rhodehouse sent down the Huskies in order for the second straight inning in the eighth. The right-handed reliever received help from Dawson, who added some nifty glove work to his impressive day at the plate. Normally a second baseman, Dawson looked comfortable at first base as he made a diving stab and took it to first for the unassisted putout.
- Valpo didn’t score in the top of the ninth, but Rhodehouse stayed on and got the final three outs in the bottom of the inning. He retired nine straight for a well-earned victory.
Inside the Game – Game 1
- Valpo starting pitcher Mike Kornacker (Lemont, Ill. / St. Laurence [Purdue]) left after four innings in which he allowed three runs on three walks and three hits.
- Northern Illinois starter Erik Hedmark was touched for six earned runs on nine hits and three walks in his four innings. Neither starting pitcher received a decision.
- Dawson’s home run was his first of the season and the fourth of his career. He finished a triple shy of the cycle in a performance that featured three hits and three RBIs.
- Rhodehouse earned his fifth career win and his first since his freshman year. The Valpo junior has shut out the opposition in six of his seven appearances this season.
- Dawson made his first start since March 3 after being limited to pinch-hitting duties over the last four games due to an injury. He played first base for the first time in his collegiate career. It was the first time he played a position other than second since March 29, 2016, when he saw time at third base early in his freshman season.
- Dawson now has one three-hit game, one four-hit game and one two-hit game this season. Dent joined him with three hits in the game, his team-leading sixth multi-hit showing of the year.
- Barczi, Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth), Brent Jones (Ankeny, Iowa / Ankeny Centennial [Iowa Central] and Damon Jorgensen (Blair, Neb. / Blair [Coffeyville]) added two hits apiece in a game where six of Valpo’s nine position players had multi-hit outputs.
- NIU’s Drew Hasson (0-1) took the loss after allowing one run on three hits in 1 2/3 innings.
- Two of Valpo’s first three wins this season have come courtesy of go-ahead, eighth-inning home runs. Before Dawson snapped a 6-6 tie with his big fly on Saturday, Shaikin hit a go-ahead grand slam in a 10-8 win over UNCW on March 3.
- This was Valpo’s first one-run win of the season after the team was previously 0-3 in such games.
- Valpo outhit Northern Illinois 16-5, racking up its highest hit total of the season. The 16 hits were the team’s most since May 23 of last season, 18 against DBU in the first game of the MVC Tournament.
How It Happened – Game 2
- Dawson picked up where he left off in Game 1 by cracking a double in the bottom of the first of Game 2. That sparked a two-out rally that saw four straight reach and two cross the dish on a single by Barczi.
- The Huskies pushed across single tallies in each of the first two innings against starting pitcher Jon Tieman (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge), tying the game at two.
- Northern Illinois scored a pair of unearned runs in the fourth to jump ahead 4-2.
- Valpo threatened in the top of the fifth by stringing together three straight two-out baserunners, but the team left the bases loaded.
- Tieman put zeros on the board in the fifth and sixth innings before departing the game. He was charged with four runs, but only two earned, while striking out five and walking three. Tieman eventually took the defeat to fall to 1-2.
- Jarrett Hammel (Brook, Ind. / South Newton [Saint Joseph’s College]) did not allow a run in the seventh, but the Huskies manufactured an insurance tally against him in the eighth to extend the lead to 5-2. That was the first run by either team since the fourth inning.
- NIU’s Nate Thomas finished out his second save with a scoreless ninth. Michael Lasiewicz (2-2) received the win after allowing just two runs on eight hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in five innings.
Inside the Game – Game 2
- Valpo outhit the Huskies again, this time 12-5. Over the two games, Valpo had 28 hits to Northern Illinois’ 10.
- Jones went a perfect 4-for-4 with a double. He is now batting a team-best .386 for the season and owns a 10-game hitting streak.
- Dawson had two hits in Game 2 including his second double of the day, while Billinger picked up two hits and reached three times.
Valpo (3-12) and Northern Illinois (4-14) will round out the three-game set with a noon start on Sunday at Chicago State. A link to live stats is available on ValpoAthletics.com.