The Valparaiso University baseball team held a late lead in Saturday’s regular season finale, but Missouri State came from behind for an 8-6 win that ended with a walk-off home run to snap a 6-6 tie. Valpo finished the regular season with six Missouri Valley Conference wins, equaling its conference win total from a year ago despite playing in a conference that is ranked sixth nationally in RPI this season.
How It Happened
- Missouri State got a run in the opening inning as Jack Duffy doubled and scored on a ground ball by Dakota Kotowski.
- Freshman Jake Kapers (Schererville, Ind. / Mount Carmel) led off the third with a double and eventually scored to tie the game on a wild pitch. Later in the inning, Chase Dawson (Chesterton, Ind. / Andrean) had an infield single that drove in a run, giving Valpo the lead at 2-1.
- The Bears went back in front in the bottom of the third as Brooks Zimmerman and Anthony Herron both had RBI doubles.
- The seesaw affair continued in the fourth, when Valpo scored twice. The first came on a squeeze bunt by Kapers, the second on a wild pitch to make it 4-3 Valpo.
- Valpo added to the lead in the fifth as Brent Jones (Ankeny, Iowa / Ankeny Centennial [Iowa Central]) picked up his second hit of the day, this one a two-out single to center to drive in a run and make it 5-3.
- Two walks and a ball that was dropped on a collision in the outfield resulted in the bases loaded with nobody out for Missouri State in the fifth. Montana Quigley (Lake Forest, Calif. / El Toro) was summoned into the unenviable situation and did a nice job limiting the damage to one run by getting three outs while facing three batters. After Quigley recorded a strikeout to end the frame, Valpo went into the sixth clinging to a 5-4 edge.
- Quigley followed that by working a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth, then Dawson led off the seventh with a bunt single that turned into a run a moment later when Billinger smashed a double down the left-field line. That extended Valpo’s lead to 6-4.
- Missouri State tied the game with two runs against Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland) in the eighth. Rhodehouse recovered to get three straight outs including back-to-back strikeouts to retire the side and keep it a 6-6 deadlock.
- Mason Hull hit a two-run, walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth.
Inside the Game
- The double by Kapers was his fourth of the season and second of the series.
- Jones enjoyed his 11th multi-hit output of the year. He has reached base in 11 consecutive games, while Dawson currently has the team’s longest on-base streak of the season at 13.
- Billinger’s double was the 36th of his Valpo career in just two seasons and his 13th of the season. He needs two more to enter the Top 10 in program history for career doubles, and he holds the team lead this season.
- Billinger, Dent and Dawson continued to share the team lead in multi-hit games as all three notched their 15th of the year on Saturday. Billinger led the way with three hits plus a walk.
- Dawson enters the MVC Tournament with 199 career hits, one shy of joining Valpo’s 200-hit club.
- Valpo starter Jarrett Hammel (Brook, Ind. / South Newton [Saint Joseph’s College]) received no decision after allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits, five walks and six strikeouts in 4+ innings.
- Quigley was strong out of the Valpo bullpen as he allowed no hits and just one walk over three scoreless frames while striking out four.
Valpo (14-35, 6-15 MVC) and Missouri State (19-34, 10-11 MVC) will do battle on Tuesday in the opening round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The winner of the game will advance to the double elimination portion of the tournament, while the loser will see its season come to a close. All games in the MVC Tournament will be broadcast on ESPN+ with live stats also available.