Seniors Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland) and Jon Tieman (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge) combined on a two-hit shutout and the offense capitalized just enough on numerous scoring chances as the Valparaiso University baseball team edged host Bradley 2-1 in Friday night’s seven-inning affair at Dozer Park in Peoria. Valpo bounced back to win the nightcap after incurring a 9-5 setback in a nine-inning opener to the twinbill.
How It Happened – Game 1
- It didn’t take long for Valpo to produce the first run of the game as Steven Fitzsimmons (Golden Valley, Minn. / Robbinsdale Cooper) led off the contest with a well-struck solo home run to put the visitors ahead 1-0.
- Bradley responded right away with a four-run bottom of the first inning including a go-ahead, bases-clearing triple by Carl Valk.
- The Braves tacked on two in the second to build up a 6-1 lead.
- Valpo got one but stranded three in the third, when Jeremy Drudge (Plymouth, Ind. / Plymouth) worked a bases-loaded walk to account for the tally.
- Valpo tallied two in the fourth including a sacrifice fly by Fitzsimmons for his second RBI of the day. That sliced the Bradley edge to 6-4.
- The Braves scored twice in the fifth to up the lead to 8-4, but when Nolan Lebamoff (Fort Wayne, Ind. / Carroll [Kankakee CC]) came in from the Valpo bullpen, the right-hander did a quality job of keeping the game close. Lebamoff got the final two outs of the fifth inning without further damage, then retired the side in order in the sixth and seventh frames, striking out the side in the seventh.
- Bradley touched Lebamoff for a run in his third inning of work with a pair of two-out hits in the eighth to extend the hosts’ advantage to 9-4.
- A run scored as Kaleb Hannahs (West Terre Haute, Ind. / West Vigo) drilled a double to deep left in the ninth to trim Bradley’s lead to four, but that was as close as the Brown & Gold would get.
How It Happened – Game 2
- Rhodehouse worked “six up, six down” over the first two innings. He remained sharp in the third, but allowed a fluke run after a walk on a close full-count pitch, a stolen base and a bloop double down the left-field line. Rhodehouse struck out a pair in the inning, but the Braves gained the 1-0 edge.
- Traffic on the base paths was frequent for Valpo over the first three innings, as the Brown & Gold threatened in each frame. However, they couldn’t cash in, stranding two in the first, three in the second and two in the third. The top of the third inning ended on a diving grab by the Bradley left fielder that took a base hit away from Parker Johnson (Golden Valley, Minn. / Hopkins).
- Valpo loaded the bases with one away in the fourth, but once again couldn’t push across a run. The team stranded 11 over the first four innings alone. The top of the fourth ended with a warning-track fly ball to right by Jonathan Temple (Turlock, Calif. / Turlock [Modesto JC]).
- Bradley tried to pull off another Houdini act in the fifth, but this time Fitzsimmons came through by fisting a soft two-out single to left to drive in a pair and give Valpo a 2-1 advantage.
- Tieman was summoned from the Valpo bullpen to work the bottom of the fifth and retired the side in order with a pair of strikeouts. He made it “six up, six down” through his first two frames by working a quick sixth to help Valpo cling to a 2-1 edge.
- Tieman faced a challenging spot in the seventh after issuing two walks, but he induced a ground ball to short that ended the game and preserved the 2-1 victory for the Brown & Gold.
Inside the Game
- Valpo had five players enjoy multi-hit outputs in the opener: Fitzsimmons, Hannahs, Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson), Johnson and Angel DiFederico (New Haven, Ind. / New Haven). Fitzsimmons had a big game with two hits, two runs scored, two RBIs, a sac fly and a hit by pitch.
- Fitzsimmons’ home run was his first of the season and the second of his Valpo career. His only prior long ball came on April 19, 2019 at SIUE.
- Fitzsimmons was hit by a pitch once in each game to up his team-leading total to 12, moving into third in the Missouri Valley Conference in that category.
- Hannahs’ multi-hit output in Game 1 was his fourth in a six-game span. Johnson recorded his third straight multi-hit performance in the opener, as did DiFederico.
- Valpo’s six hits in the nightcap were spread out among six different players, while the veterans Rhodehouse and Tieman limited the Braves to just two base knocks. Rhodehouse struck out five and permitted just one run over four innings, his longest outing this season and tied for the second-longest outing of his career. He garnered the victory to up his mark to 3-2.
- Tieman did not allow a hit over his three frames, earning his second save of the season and the ninth of his career. He moved into a tie for seventh on Valpo’s career saves list, drawing even with Adam Paetznick (2001-2004).
- Valpo improved to 6-4 in one-run games and 5-1 in one-run battles in MVC play.
- Head coach Brian Schmack moved into sole possession of fourth in program history for wins by a head coach. He surpassed Rick Ferchen (1982-1987) by garnering his 148th career victory.
- Valpo has clinched its highest conference win total since joining the Valley with 10 games to spare (and still three games to spare based on the usual length of the conference schedule, which was expanded by seven games this year).
Valpo (12-24, 7-11) and Bradley (15-16, 7-6) have announced a schedule change for the remainder of the weekend based on Sunday’s forecast. They will now face off in a doubleheader on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Dozer Park in Peoria to close out the series. The games will not have live video available, but a link to live stats can be found on ValpoAthletics.com.