The Valparaiso University baseball team tied its largest margin of victory in a Missouri Valley Conference game since joining the league in Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader at Dozer Park in Peoria. The team’s 10-3 triumph over host Bradley helped it bounce back from a heart-breaking 3-2 defeat in the opener and earn a split in the road series.
How It Happened – Game 1
- Bradley stranded the bases full in the first, but pushed across one run on three hits in the second to strike first.
- The Braves (16-17, 8-7) got two more in the third with help from a walk and two wild pitches. Both runs came after two were out.
- Valpo battled back as Kaleb Hannahs (West Terre Haute, Ind. / West Vigo) lashed an RBI single as a throwing error by the left fielder allowed a second run to score on the play. That cut Bradley’s lead to 3-2.
- Freshman Alex Rodriguez (Bourbonnais, Ill. / Bradley-Bourbonnais) played a major role in keeping Valpo very much in the game. The right-hander came out of the bullpen and delivered the best outing of his young collegiate career to date, stringing together four scoreless innings while issuing no walks, striking out three and yielding just two hits.
- Still trailing 3-2, the Brown & Gold mounted a major threat in the eighth thanks to two hits and an error. However, they left the bases loaded as the Braves escaped the jam with the narrow edge intact.
- The first two batters of the top of the ninth were retired and Valpo’s outlook was bleak with two down and the bases clear. However, Steven Fitzsimmons (Golden Valley, Minn. / Robbinsdale Cooper) worked a walk and scampered all the way to third on a wild pickoff throw. Fitzsimmons dashed for the plate in an effort to score the tying run as the ball squirted away from the catcher on a would-be wild pitch, but the catcher recovered and threw home with the pitcher covering. The tag was applied in time to catch Fitzsimmons for the final out of the game.
How It Happened – Game 2
- Valpo capitalized on a Bradley error that extended the top of the first inning in Saturday’s second game. That frame saw Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) bat home a run on a fielder’s choice and Parker Johnson (Golden Valley, Minn. / Hopkins) add another on an RBI single.
- Fitzsimmons rapped a single, stole second, advanced to third on a grounder and scored on a wild pitch as Valpo manufactured a second-inning run to extend the lead to 3-0.
- The Brown & Gold added some breathing room with a two-out uprising in the third. Angel DiFederico (New Haven, Ind. / New Haven) singled home a run before Matt Olive (Minneapolis, Minn. / Blake School) smacked a double to make it 5-0.
- Bradley scored three in the fourth to cut the lead to two, but Valpo got those runs right back in the sixth, when Fitzsimmons ripped an RBI single and Schmack drove in a pair with a base hit of his own.
- Hannahs drew a bases-loaded walk and Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) drove in a run with a ground ball as Valpo added two more in the seventh to up the lead to seven at 10-3.
- Four Valpo pitchers combined to hold the Braves to three hits. Nathan Chasey (Ames, Iowa / Gilbert [Indiana Hills CC]) and Jacob Rosenkranz (Lincolnshire, Ill. / Stevenson) combined for four scoreless frames to finish out the game.
Inside the Games
- After being tagged for three earned runs while recording just one out in his collegiate debut on Feb. 27 at Jacksonville State, Rodriguez has permitted just one earned run over his last eight outings, totaling 12 innings. He possesses an 0.75 ERA over his last seven contests and has not allowed a walk in his last 7 1/3 innings.
- Valpo played its seventh one-run game in Valley play this season in Game 1 of the doubleheader, falling to 5-2 in such contests. Valpo has played as many one-run league games this season as it did in its first two MVC seasons (2018 & 2019) combined. Valpo had two one-run league wins since joining The Valley before this season and already has five such victories this year.
- The seven-run win marked Valpo’s largest margin of victory since beating SIUE 8-0 on April 19, 2019. This tied with a 9-2 victory over Dallas Baptist on April 29, 2018 for the team’s most lopsided MVC win since joining The Valley.
- Fitzsimmons went 4-for-10 in the doubleheader, while Hannahs collected three hits and reached base at a .500 clip. Olive played only the second game and turned in a two-hit performance, while Fitzsimmons had three hits and scored three times in that contest.
- Over the four-game series, Fitzsimmons slashed .438/.500/.625 and drove in five of the team’s 15 runs. Hannahs stayed hot with a .400 average over the four games, reaching base at a team-high .526 clip. Hannahs and Fitzsimmons both own seven-game hitting streaks, while Fitzsimmons has reached base in 11 straight.
Valpo (13-25, 8-12) will welcome a nationally-ranked foe to Emory G. Bauer Field on Tuesday at 4 p.m. CT as Notre Dame makes its way to Northwest Indiana. Note that the start time has been moved back an hour from the original schedule. The game will be broadcast on 95.1 FM Valparaiso (WVUR) with links to live audio and stats available on ValpoAthletics.com.