The lead changed hands time and time again on Saturday evening at Tal Anderson Field in Omaha, Neb., but when the final out was recorded, the Valparaiso University baseball team had pulled off its fifth win in the last six games by beating host Omaha 7-5. The Beacons escaped a stressful bottom of the ninth to extend the team’s successful start to the season with another close victory.
How It Happened
- Omaha started the scoring by working three walks in the second inning, the third of which forced in a run.
- Valpo capitalized on Omaha defensive miscues in the fifth, scoring a pair of unearned runs as tallies crossed the dish on two different errors by the Mavericks third baseman. That frame started with a double by Spencer Warfield (Fullerton, Calif. / Servite), who eventually came around to score.
- Valpo starting pitcher Colin Fields (Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville) recorded 10 strikeouts while issuing five walks and allowing three runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings to receive no decision.
- The Mavericks got the two runs that Valpo scored in the top of the fifth right back in the bottom of that frame to snag a 3-2 advantage.
- A seesaw battle continued in the sixth, when Valpo tied the game on a Warfield RBI single to left and took a 4-3 lead on a ground ball to first by Alex Ryan (Lake Mills, Wis. / Lakeside Lutheran) Omaha scored two unearned runs in the last of the sixth to jump back in front at 5-4.
- The lead changed hands for the fifth consecutive half inning in the top of the seventh, as Adam Brauch (Waukee, Iowa / Dowling Catholic) delivered a clutch two-run double to right to give the Beacons the lead, this time for good.
- Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) stroked a single to center in the top of the eighth for an insurance run to make it 7-5.
- The Valpo bullpen did the rest, as Nathan Chasey (Ames, Iowa / Gilbert [Indian Hills CC]) heaved 2 2/3 scoreless innings of four-hit ball while striking out five and walking none to earn the win. Bobby Nowak (Cedar Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central [Kankakee]) came in with two on and one away in the bottom of the ninth. He walked the first man he faced to load the bases and put the potential winning run at first and tying run at second. Nowak went on to strike out the next two hitters to finalize the heart-pounding victory.
Inside the Game
- Fields enjoyed his fifth career double-figure strikeout total and first of the season.
- As a team, Valpo pitchers racked up 17 strikeouts, the highest total for the Valpo pitching staff in a single game since April 12, 2011 vs. Chicago State. The 17 strikeouts were the most by any Missouri Valley Conference pitching staff in a game so far this season.
- The Beacons now hold the program’s best record through the first eight games of the season since 1999.
- Entering this weekend, only five players nationally have four or more saves. Nowak will join that group as he nailed down his fourth save of the young season on Saturday evening. He already has more saves than any Valpo pitcher had last season (Jon Tieman and Easton Rhodehouse tied for the team lead with three apiece.) In addition, Nowak leads the MVC as no other Valley hurler had more than two saves entering Saturday.
- The theme of close games continued on Saturday as five of Valpo’s first eight games have been decided by two runs or fewer, with Valpo holding a 4-1 mark in those contests.
- Warfield had a breakout day, producing three hits after entering the game 1-for-17 on the season.
- Schmack enjoyed a season-high three hits, while Brauch had two and drove in a pair.
Valpo (5-3) and Omaha will round out the four-game series on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Omaha, Neb. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.