The Valparaiso University baseball team gave nationally-ranked Notre Dame a scare for the second time this season, but the No. 8 Fighting Irish escaped with an 8-7 victory on Tuesday at Frank Eck Stadium. Valpo outhit Notre Dame 9-7 as the bats stayed hot on a pleasant, sunny day near South Bend, but a seventh-inning tally marked the difference in a back-and-forth affair.
How It Happened
- Notre Dame got two runs in the opening inning on a single by Carter Putz, then added another on an RBI single by Spencer Myers in the second.
- After going “nine up, nine down” the first time through the order, the Valpo offense broke through in the fourth. Steven Fitzsimmons (Golden Valley, Minn. / Robbinsdale Cooper) notched a leadoff single and came around to score on a base knock by Kaleb Hannahs (West Terre Haute, Ind. / West Vigo) that trimmed the lead to 3-1.
- Starting pitcher Griffin McCluskey (Normal, Ill. / Normal Community) settled in on the mound as the freshman sent down seven straight including consecutive innings where he retired the Fighting Irish in order in the third and fourth.
- Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) smoked a bases-clearing double in the top of the fifth, transforming a two-run deficit into a one-run lead. Schmack trotted across the dish himself moments later as Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) ripped a run-scoring single to give Valpo a 5-3 lead over a team ranked in the top 10 nationally.
- Notre Dame responded with three in the bottom of the fifth to regain the upper hand at 6-5.
- Valpo went back on top in the sixth, capitalizing on a Notre Dame error by pushing across two unearned tallies. Alex Thurston (Fowler, Ind. / Benton Central) notched a two-run single to plate a pair and put the Brown & Gold ahead 7-6.
- Notre Dame (21-8) tied the game with a run in the sixth, but Nathan Chasey (Ames, Iowa / Gilbert [Indiana Hills CC]) limited the damage after he entered with the bases loaded and one out. The Fighting Irish stranded the maximum and it was 7-7 through six.
- Two walks, a hit batter and an error allowed Notre Dame to produce a run without the benefit of a hit in the seventh. Parker Johnson (Golden Valley, Minn. / Hopkins) snared a line drive and turned an unassisted double play to end the inning, but not before the Fighting Irish scored the go-ahead run.
- Valpo had two-out hits in both the eighth and ninth innings, but the runner was stranded in both instances. The Notre Dame left fielder made a nice catch in the ninth to take an extra-base hit away from Dent, helping the nation’s No. 8 team hold on for the 8-7 win.
Inside the Game
- Valpo outhit Notre Dame 9-7, led by a three-hit output by Hannahs and a two-hit day by Thurston. Hannahs has a team-high nine multi-hit games this season including three three-hit performances.
- The Valpo offense has heated up with seven or more hits in five straight including nine or more knocks in four of those five contests.
- For the second time this season, the Brown & Gold had the nationally-ranked Fighting Irish on the ropes. Valpo led as late as the sixth inning for the second straight trip to Frank Eck Stadium.
- This time, Notre Dame entered the matchup ranked eighth nationally by D1Baseball.com, sixth by Baseball America, 13th by the NCBWA, 14th by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, and ninth by the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
- Jacob Rosenkranz (Lincolnshire, Ill. / Stevenson) pitched 1 2/3 innings of relief for Valpo and did not allow a hit or a run to help keep the deficit at one.
- This was Valpo’s seventh one-run game of the season as the team fell to 3-4 in such contests. Three of the team’s last five games have been decided by one run.
- Schmack’s three RBIs marked a career high. He became the third Valpo player with a three-RBI game this season.
- Brady Renfro (Antigo, Wis. / Antigo) extended his on-base streak to 18, moving into a tie with Fitzsimmons for the longest by a Valpo player this season.
Valpo (8-22) will return home on Friday at 3 p.m. to host Illinois State in the opener of a four-game Missouri Valley Conference series at Emory G. Bauer Field. Links to live coverage will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.