The Valparaiso University baseball team fell 8-0 to Indiana State in an elimination game on Wednesday to open the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo., bringing the 2022 season to a close. Seniors Keegan Bates (Plainfield, Ill. /Plainfield North) and Zach Fricke (Arlington Heights, Ill. / Buffalo Grove) each tossed scoreless innings in their final collegiate game, but it was Jeremy Drudge (Plymouth, Ind. / Plymouth) who had the most impactful senior moment, as his single in the top of the ninth broke up a perfect-game bid by Indiana State’s Matt Jachec.
How It Happened
- When the game finally got underway at 2:33 p.m. after a long rain delay, the Sycamores took a quick lead. It appeared to be a 1-2-3 frame for Colin Fields (Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville), but an error extended the inning and Indiana State capitalized with a two-out single that plated an unearned run.
- It stayed 1-0 through the bottom of the second, when Valpo turned an 8-6-3 double play on a fly ball to retire the side. The Beacons turned two again in the third, as a more traditional 6-4-3 twin-killing ended the frame.
- The Sycamores scored four in the fourth, launching a solo homer and a three-run homer to build up a 5-0 lead.
- Indiana State got two more in the fifth to extend the edge to 7-0, then an additional tally in the sixth made it 8-0. The Sycamores had a chance for more in the sixth, but Nolan Lebamoff (Fort Wayne, Ind. / Carroll [Kankakee CC]) notched back-to-back strikeouts to escape without further damage.
- Fricke came on to pitch the seventh and worked a scoreless inning to keep it an eight-run game. Another senior had his moment in the sun in the eighth when Bates put a zero on the board with help from a double play.
- Indiana State pitcher Matt Jachec threw a gem, going 24-up, 24-down through the first eight innings. But it was Drudge who made sure the Beacons didn’t end up on the wrong side of history, as he led off the top of the ninth with a pinch-hit single to right in his final collegiate plate appearance, breaking up the no-hitter and perfect game in the process.
Inside the Game
- Fields added one strikeout on Wednesday to finish the season with 110 strikeouts, the fifth-most in single-season program history and most since Bryce Shafer finished with 121 in 2010.
- Fields finished the season with 260 career strikeouts, fifth on Valpo’s all-time list.
- Tucker finished the season with a .365 batting average, the highest average by a Valpo player since Ryan O’Gara hit .388 in 2010.