The Valparaiso University baseball team was one of the final four teams standing at the Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Tournament in Carbondale, Ill., but a strong run that featured a pair of victories came to an end on Friday night with an 11-5 defeat to host Southern Illinois.
Wins over Illinois State and Missouri State earlier in the week helped Valpo join Indiana State, DBU and Southern Illinois as the only teams with multiple MVC Tournament victories and the final teams remaining. The other three aforementioned teams were all nationally ranked at one point this season and are in contention for NCAA at-large berths.
The tournament run came after Valpo posted its highest league-only winning percentage since joining The Valley as a young team competing in the seventh-ranked conference nationally in RPI. Valpo received 57.8 percent of the team’s at-bats from freshmen and 79 percent of the team’s innings pitched from either freshmen or sophomores.
How It Happened
- Valpo struck first in the bottom of the third. Steven Fitzsimmons (Golden Valley, Minn. / Robbinsdale Cooper) ripped a double to lead off the inning and eventually scored as Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) reached on a two-out throwing error by the shortstop. Parker Johnson (Golden Valley, Minn. / Hopkins) lashed a run-scoring single to provide another two-out run, making it 2-0 Valpo through three.
- Starting pitcher Trent Turzenski (Burlington, Wis. / Burlington) was sharp over the first three innings, holding the Salukis off the scoreboard. SIU jumped in front in the fourth as Grey Epps lifted a three-run homer.
- The hosts added two more in the fifth to increase the lead to 5-2, then added four in the seventh and two in the eighth to make it 11-2.
- Schmack went yard in the bottom of the seventh after Riley Dent (Long Beach, Calif. / Wilson) had singled to lead off the inning, and Valpo cut the lead to 11-4.
- Josh Currier (Mokena, Ill. / Lincoln Way Central) came on to work his final collegiate inning in the top of the ninth and tossed a scoreless frame. He received major help from a fellow senior, as Fitzsimmons ended his career with an outstanding catch crashing into the center-field wall.
- Speaking of seniors going out on a high note, Dent elevated a solo shot in his final collegiate at-bat, accounting for the final run of an 11-5 final.
Inside the Game, Season and Careers
- Valpo was one of the final four teams remaining in the tournament, joining teams that were all nationally ranked at some point this season in DBU, Indiana State and SIU. Valpo’s young team joined a trio of top-75 RPI teams in the final four of the MVC Tournament.
- Schmack’s home run was the second of his collegiate career and first since May 15 against Evansville.
- Dent’s dinger was his team-high seventh of the season and accounted for his team-high 30th RBI.
- Hannahs notched a hit to extend his on-base streak to 20. He joined Brady Renfro (21) as the only Valpo players with on-base streaks of 20 or more this season.
- Dent posted a multi-hit game in his final collegiate contest, his 13th such outing of the season. This marked the end of the careers of seven Valpo seniors. Five-year fixtures Dent, Fitzsimmons, Easton Rhodehouse (Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland) and Jon Tieman (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Prairie Ridge) were joined in this year’s senior class by Currier, Jonathan Temple (Turlock, Calif. / Turlock [Modesto JC]) and Damon Jorgensen (Blair, Neb. / Blair [Coffeyville]).
- Dent finished his career with eight home runs and 61 RBIs while appearing in 183 games and making 166 starts. Fitzsimmons saw action in 156 career games and made 124 starts.
- Tieman finished with 244 career strikeouts, seventh in program history. The righty logged 283 1/3 career innings in 72 games, 36 starts. Rhodehouse totaled 146 1/3 innings in 92 career games, racking up 172 strikeouts.
- Rhodehouse (11) and Tieman (10) both finished in the top 10 in program history in career saves, tied for fifth and seventh respectively.
- Hannahs finished as the team leader in batting average at .296, becoming the first Valpo freshman to lead the team in batting average since Spencer Mahoney in 2012.
- Colin Fields (Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville) finished the season with 81 strikeouts, the most by any Valpo pitcher since Dalton Lundeen in 2015.