Senior Blake Billinger (Los Gatos, Calif. / St. Francis [Mission]) provided the bright spot of the day for the Valparaiso University baseball team, launching one home run in the first game and two in the second game of a twinbill at SIU Edwardsville’s Simmons Complex. The Cougars won the opener 4-3 before taking the nightcap 16-6 in eight innings on Saturday.
How It Happened – Game 1
- It was SIUE that struck first on Saturday as Brock Weimer lifted a two-run home run to right center that received a boost from the wind in the opening inning.
- Valpo starting pitcher Colin Fields (Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville) exited after two frames, giving way to Jarrett Hammel (Brook, Ind. / South Newton [Saint Joseph’s College]) on the mound. It turned into a long, strong relief appearance for the Valpo lefty.
- Valpo sliced the lead in half in the fourth thanks to one swing of the bat by Billinger, who homered to right to make it 2-1.
- The Cougars (15-22) added to the lead in the fifth when Eric Glitz tripled down the right-field line to drive in a run and make it 3-1. That was the only run allowed by Hammel over five innings of relief where he permitted three hits and three walks while striking out four.
- SIUE threatened to break it open in the bottom of the seventh with the bases full and two outs, but Hammel wiggled out of the jam with help from Damon Jorgenson (Blair, Neb. / Blair [Coffeysville]), who charged in to make a nice play on a slow roller to third.
- Valpo scored twice to tie the game in the top of the eighth on consecutive run-scoring singles by Sam Shaikin (West Hills, Calif. / Chatsworth) and Dawson. Shaikin’s came on a ball that was lost in the sun in center before Dawson grounded one sharply through the right side.
- Valpo briefly appeared to take a 5-3 lead in the top of the eighth, but a Valpo batter was ruled to have swung and been hit by the pitch on a play that initially appeared to be a two-run wild pitch. Because of the hit by pitch, it was a dead ball and the Valpo runners were sent back to second and third. SIUE got out of the inning and the game remained tied at three.
- The Cougars jumped back in front in the bottom of the eighth inning against Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland). Back-to-back walks forced in a run before Rhodehouse escaped with no further damage as SIUE stranded the bases full. Valpo didn’t score in the ninth, so Rhodehouse took the loss to drop to 1-2.
Inside the Game – Game 1
- Billinger’s home run was his seventh of the season, allowing him to move into a tie for the team lead with Shaikin.
- Dent led the team with two hits in a game where SIUE outhit Valpo 8-7.
How It Happened – Game 2
- The first run of the game again belonged to the Cougars when Brendan Ryan led off the bottom of the first with a double and scored on a two-out two-bagger by Weimer. The Cougars had men at first and third, but Valpo starting pitcher Zach Fricke (Arlington Heights, Ill. / Buffalo Grove) worked out of the frame without further damage.
- Another Billinger bomb came to start the second inning as the Valpo designated hitter led off with a solo shot to right to level the score at one.
- It didn’t stay tied for long as Justin Perkins cracked a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the second, putting SIUE back in front at 2-1.
- The game went haywire in the third when SIUE scored six times to open up an 8-1 lead.
- Valpo got two back in the fourth when Steven Fitzsimmons (Golden Valley, Minn. / Robbinsdale Cooper) and Brent Jones (Ankeny, Iowa / Ankeny Centennial [Iowa Central]) each had RBI singles to make it 8-3.
- SIUE added three in the fifth and two in the sixth with all five of those runs coming unearned. The fifth-inning runs came on a Dustin Woodcock three-run homer.
- With Valpo facing a possible 10-run rule defeat, Billinger extended the game with two outs in the seventh by drilling another home run – this time a three-run job to center that made it 13-6.
- SIUE scored one in the bottom of the seventh, then twice in the eighth to end the game via 10-run rule.
Inside the Game – Game 2
- Billinger’s homers lifted him into the Missouri Valley Conference lead with nine. Valpo is the only team with two players with seven or more home runs as Shaikin and Billinger comprise two of the conference’s top six in that category.
- Billinger’s multi-homer game was his second of the season and the third of his career. Mostly recently, he ripped two long balls on Feb. 24 at Arkansas State.
- Billinger is up to 16 career home runs after hitting seven last season. He had three hits, four RBIs and three runs scored in Game 2.
- Fricke (0-3) took the defeat after allowing eight runs on six hits and four walks in three frames.
Valpo (8-26) will be back in action for a midweek visit to Notre Dame, Ind. to visit the Fighting Irish on Tuesday. The start time is slated for 5 p.m. CT / 6 p.m. ET at Frank Eck Stadium. The game will be streamed on the ACC Network Extra. Links to live video and stats will be available.