The Valparaiso University baseball team pounded out 17 hits including two key home runs to outslug visiting UIC 12-9 in Friday’s series opener at Emory G. Bauer Field. Matt Olive (Minneapolis, Minn. / Blake School) drilled a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth that proved to be the difference in the game, while Ryan Maka (Oak Forest, Ill. / Oak Forest) had a huge day with three hits and five RBIs including a big fly of his own.
How It Happened
- UIC grabbed the early lead thanks to a solo home run in the opening inning, but a sac fly by Jake Skrine (Longmont, Colo. / Mead [Indiana]) in the bottom of the frame quickly leveled the score. Later in the inning, Maka unloaded a three-run shot to right, putting the hosts ahead 4-1.
- After being touched by a long ball in the opening frame, Valpo starting pitcher Griffin McCluskey (Normal, Ill. / Normal Community) settled in and sent down the side in order in the second. In the bottom of that inning, Maka picked up his fourth RBI of the day with a two-out single up the middle to plate a run.
- The Flames got within a run when Carson Roberts belted a three-run homer in the third to make it 5-4. UIC did not score in the fourth, then went down in order including a pair of strikeouts in the fifth, McCluskey’s final frame of work.
- UIC tied the game on a two-out single in the sixth, but the potential go-ahead run was cut down at the plate trying to score on a pitch that got away from the catcher. That out ended the inning, and Valpo regained the lead in a blink of an eye in the bottom of the frame as Brady Renfro (Antigo, Wis. / Antigo) cracked a run-scoring double.
- Josh Cottrill (Pewaukee, Wis. / Pewaukee) worked a scoreless top of the seventh and retired the side in order in the eighth.
- Valpo exploded for six insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth. The scoring in the big frame started on a Renfro run-scoring single and continued on a wild snap throw to third by the catcher that scored a run and an RBI double by Maka that made it 9-5. That set the stage for Olive, who drilled a three-run bomb in his first game back from an injury to break it open at 12-5.
- UIC hit back-to-back jacks in the top of the ninth, the first of which was a three-run job. That shrunk the lead to three at 12-9, but the insurance home run by Olive proved pivotal as the Beacons held on for the win.
Inside the Game
- Olive smashed his third home run of the season (in just 11 games) and the fifth of his collegiate career.
- Maka’s dinger was the 10th of his career and his fifth this season, while his five-RBI output was just the second by a Beacon this season, joining Jake Skrine on April 15 at Bradley.
- Renfro extended his on-base streak to 30, becoming the first Valpo player with a 30-game on-base streak since 2016, when Nolan Lodden reached base safely in 34 in a row. Renfro has reached in every Valpo game this season.
- Renfro, Maka and Alex Thurston (Fowler, Ind. / Benton Central) all produced three-hit games. Six of the nine batters in the lineup had multiple hits. Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) reached base five times (three walks, two hits) and scored four times.
- This marked the team’s third straight double-figure run output in Valley play. The Beacons scored a season-high 12 in the first game of the April 15 doubleheader at Bradley, a total that was matched on Friday. Those two run totals were sandwiched around a 10-0 triumph in the series finale in Peoria.
- The 17 hits tied a season high set twice during the late February series at UT Martin and marked the team’s highest hit total in Valley play since May 1, 2021 vs. Illinois State (18).
- Cottrill earned the win in relief, the first decision of his collegiate career. He worked four innings of five-run, five hit ball while walking four and striking out three after McCluskey flipped five frames while allowing four runs on six hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
- Valpo batters only struck out twice in the entire game, tying a season best that was set on March 5 at Little Rock. This was the fewest times Valpo batters had struck out in a league game since the team struck out just once on May 16, 2021 vs. Evansville.
Valpo (15-15, 6-7 MVC) and UIC will continue the series on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Emory G. Bauer Field. There is no video streaming of this series due to home softball, but links to live audio (UIC broadcast) and stats are available on ValpoAthletics.com.