The Valparaiso University baseball team owns its best record through 22 games since 1998 after rallying to win the final two games of a road series this weekend at UIC, including a 5-2 triumph in Sunday’s series finale at Curtis Granderson Stadium in Chicago. Behind a stellar pitching performance by left-hander Jake Miller (Chester, N.Y. / Don Bosco Prep), the Beacons earned their first series win over their nearby foes in 10 years in the final nonconference weekend of the season.
How It Happened
- The Beacons started the day with three consecutive baserunners in the top of the first, including a run-scoring single by Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central), who picked up where he left off after reaching base 10 times in Friday’s doubleheader.
- The Beacons went on to produce two more runs in that inning, one on a two-out hit by Ryan Maka (Oak Forest, Ill. / Oak Forest) and the other on a wild pitch.
- Miller sent down the side in order in the opening inning including a pair of strikeouts, then fanned three more in the second. That second inning saw the Flames threaten with runners at second and third and one away, but Miller notched back-to-back strikeouts to extinguish the chance.
- UIC got on the board in the bottom of the third with a solo home run to make it 3-1.
- The Flames pulled within a run in the fourth thanks to a ground-run double and run-scoring single.
- Miller sent down the side in order in the bottom of the fifth, then Valpo extended the lead in the top of the sixth. The Beacons got a run as Alex Ryan (Lake Mills, Wis. / Lakeside Lutheran) clubbed a double that rolled around in the left-field corner, allowing Nolan Tucker (Cedar Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central) to score from first.
- A stretch of 10 straight Flames sent down by Miller was snapped with two outs in the seventh, when UIC picked up a two-out double. A looking strikeout helped Miller retire the side as the hosts stranded a runner at third.
- Nolan Lebamoff (Fort Wayne, Ind. / Carroll [Kankakee CC]) was summoned from the bullpen to work the eighth inning. He retired the first two men he faced before UIC got a pair of two-out baserunners. Those runners were stranded as Lebamoff induced an inning-ending fielder’s choice bouncer.
- Valpo boosted the lead to three with a run in the top of the ninth as Ryan led off the inning with a walk and eventually scored as Schmack beat out a relay throw to first on a potential double play.
- Closer Bobby Nowak (Cedar Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central) worked 1-2-3 in the ninth to finalize the victory.
Inside the Game
- Hannahs and Schmack had multi-hit days, both enjoying their 10th multi-hit games of the year, tied for the team lead.
- Thurston also boasted a multi-hit effort, his seventh of the year. He extended his hitting streak to nine and has hit safely in 19 of his last 20 games. Renfro also had two hits on a day where each of Valpo’s top four hitters in the lineup had multi-hit efforts.
- Miller finished with a career-high 11 strikeouts, surpassing his previous peak of nine on March 20 of this season at Murray State. The southpaw did not issue any walks over his seven innings of six-hit, two-run ball. This season, Miller now owns an incredible strikeout-to-walk ratio of 41 strikeouts against just three walks. He was already 15th nationally in strikeout-to-walk ratio before this weekend.
- Nowak nailed down his sixth save of the season, already the most by a Valpo player since Jon Tieman had seven in 2017.
- Valpo holds a .500 record through 22 games at 11-11, the program’s best record through 22 games since 1998.
- This marked the first time Valpo won a series against UIC since 2012. Valpo had dropped eight straight series against the Flames prior to this weekend.
- The series win over UIC, a 30-win team last season, helped Valpo finish the nonconference slate at 4-3 in seven games against teams that will join The Valley next season.
- This marked the first time since 2015 that Valpo rallied to win a series after dropping the series opener. The last time that occurred was May 8-10, 2015 vs. Youngstown State.
Valpo will head to Milwaukee for a doubleheader on Tuesday with two seven-inning games beginning at 3 p.m. The second game is a makeup from a contest that was slated to take place at Emory G. Bauer Field earlier this season. No live video will be available, but links to live audio and stats can be found on ValpoAthletics.com.