A key series in the Missouri Valley Conference standings got off to a favorable start for the Valparaiso University baseball team. Starting pitcher Griffin McCluskey (Normal, Ill. / Normal Community) struck out 11 and walked none over eight strong innings to help the Beacons to a 12-3 victory over host Belmont on Friday afternoon. The game, which was delayed two hours by rain, saw Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) and Jake Skrine (Longmont, Colo. / Mead [Indiana]) both clobber home runs.
How It Happened
- Ryan Maka (Oak Forest, Ill. / Oak Forest) helped the Beacons get on the board first by driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the opening inning. That helped Valpo take advantage of a frame that started with a leadoff walk followed by a hit batter.
- The Beacons capitalized on some Belmont sloppiness in the second, scoring three times with help from an error, two run-scoring wild pitches, a walk and a hit batter. Alex Ryan (Lake Mills, Wis. / Lakeside Lutheran) picked up an RBI on a fielder’s choice bouncer.
- The Bruins switched pitchers prior to the third, but the Beacons scored for the third consecutive inning. This time the run came on one swing of the bat from Skrine who ripped one over the left-field fence to extend the lead to 5-0.
- Valpo continued to add to the cushion in the fourth, when Schmack was nipped with a pitch with the bases loaded to score a run and Ryan scored another on a wild pitch. Maka delivered a two-run single to cap a four-run frame that expanded the lead to 9-0.
- McCluskey worked shutout ball in the first three frames. Belmont stranded two in scoring position in the opening frame, McCluskey struck out a pair in the second and then he worked around an error in an otherwise smooth third.
- The Belmont bats woke up in the fourth, scoring twice in an inning that also saw McCluskey notch two more strikeouts. The Bruins pushed across a single tally in the fifth to shrink the gap to six at 9-3.
- Schmack smacked one over the left-field fence in the sixth, a two-run shot that expanded the margin to eight.
- McCluskey worked shutout ball in the sixth and seventh innings, striking out two in each frame.
- Matt Olive (Minneapolis, Minn. / Blake School) was hit with a pitch with the bases loaded in the top of the eighth, extending the lead to 12-3.
- McCluskey went back out for the eighth, notching his 11th strikeout of the day before inducing an inning-ending double play to put another zero on the board.
- Jacob Rosenkranz (Lincolnshire, Ill. / Stevenson) entered for the ninth and worked a smooth inning to seal the win.
Inside the Game
- McCluskey’s 11-strikeout, no-walk performance featured Valpo’s highest single-game strikeout total since Jake Miller on April 3, 2022 at UIC.
- Head coach Brian Schmack garnered his 187th career win, moving into a tie with his predecessor Tracy Woodson for third on Valpo’s all-time wins list.
- With 19 wins, Valpo owns the team’s highest win total since 2017, when it also recorded 19 victories. One more win will give the Beacons their first 20-win season since joining the Missouri Valley Conference prior to the 2017 campaign.
- By picking up its ninth MVC win of the season, Valpo has matched its highest league win total since joining the conference.
- Several Valpo players extended long on-base streaks – Maka (21), Skrine (18) and Olive (17). Maka extended his hitting streak to 13 and beefed up his team-leading RBI total with three more, finishing the day with 37.
- Schmack also drove in three including a home run, his seventh of the season and the 16th of his career.
- Skrine’s shot was his team-leading eighth of the season.
- Valpo collected 11 hits, worked eight walks and had four hit batters.
- Olive was hit by a pitch twice, the first Valpo player with two in a game since Kyle Schmack on April 1, 2021 at DBU.
- The 12 runs tied a season high reached on two prior occasions.
Valpo (19-21, 9-13 MVC) and Belmont will get together again on Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.