The eighth-seeded Valparaiso University baseball team held a four-run lead five batters into the game, but an impressive opening inning was not enough as Murray State pulled away for an 11-6 victory in the opening round of the double-elimination Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, hosted by Indiana State at Bob Warn Field in Terre Haute, Ind.
How It Happened
- Valpo grabbed the immediate lead in the top of the first when Ryan Maka (Oak Forest, Ill. / Oak Forest) continued to pad his team-leading RBI total, coming through with a two-run single to drive in Alex Ryan (Lake Mills, Wis. / Lakeside Lutheran) and Nolan Tucker (Cedar Lake, Ind. / Hanover Central), who were at second and third.
- The strong start got even stronger a moment later, when Jake Skrine (Longmont, Colo. / Mead [Indiana]) cracked a home run to left that was gone when it left the bat. The two-run shot doubled the lead to 4-0.
- Murray State’s bottom of the first started with two outs and the bases clear, but they scratched out a run to cut the deficit to three.
- The Racers scored twice more in the third, using a squeeze bunt single and another run-scoring knock to whittle the deficit to one at 4-3.
- Ryan made a sprawling snag in center for the first out of the third, but a moment later Carson Garner’s home run tied the game at four. The Racers produced another run in that inning to take their first lead of the day at 5-4.
- Murray State added single tallies in both the fourth and fifth innings to expand the lead to 7-4.
- Valpo moved a step closer when Alex Thurston (Fowler, Ind. / Benton Central) picked up an RBI in the sixth on a fielder’s choice bouncer to make it 7-5. In the bottom of the inning, Grant Jablonski (Mishawaka, Ind. / Mishawaka) worked the first perfect inning of the day for the Valpo pitching staff including a pair of looking strikeouts.
- Murray State scored four in the seventh to expand the lead to 11-5.
- Righty Ryan Mintz (Lombard, Ill. / Willowbrook) worked a scoreless ninth including a pair of strikeouts.
Inside the Game
- Maka increased his RBI total to 42, the most by a Valpo player since Blake Billinger had 46 in 2018.
- Skrine’s home run was his 12th of the season, making him the first Valpo player with a dozen or more since Dan Schrum hit 13 in 2002. He needs one more to climb into the top five in single-season program history.
- Valpo collected 11 hits in the game including four players with multi-hit outputs – Maka, Ryan, Skrine and Matt Olive (Minneapolis, Minn. / Blake School).
Valpo (20-26) will play seventh-seeded Belmont in an elimination game on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. CT / 12:30 p.m. ET at Bob Warn Field in Terre Haute. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.