March 22, 2024123456789RHE
Southern Illinois14001000X680
Win: Mike Hansell (3-1) 5.062259
Loss: Lockwood (1-1) 6.076634
Hannahs (VALPO) 402000
Giusti (VALPO) 412110
Patton (VALPO) 302010
Trey Cutchen (SIU) 423000
Valpo Threatens Late But Can’t Overcome Early Deficit in MVC Opener
Friday, March 22, 2024
Valpo Threatens Late But Can’t Overcome Early Deficit in MVC Opener
Alex Thurston drove in three and homered on Friday.

The Valparaiso University baseball team created numerous prime chances late in the game, but couldn’t fully break through in a 6-4 setback to Southern Illinois in Friday’s Missouri Valley Conference opener in Carbondale, Ill. The Beacons were down 5-0 through two innings but scored single tallies in four of the final five frames to creep back into the game. Valpo flashed the leather throughout with several nifty plays while playing errorless ball.

How It Happened

  • Southern Illinois struck first when Tyler Cutchen led off the bottom of the first before moving up to third on a fly ball and scoring on a ground ball.
  • The Salukis added to the lead when Bennett Eltoft drilled a grand slam in the bottom of the second to make it 5-0.
  • Valpo made several great defensive plays on Friday. A stellar stop by shortstop Alex Thurston (Fowler, Ind.  Benton Central) accounted for the second out of the second, then Kyle Schmack (Wanatah, Ind. / South Central) made a sprawling catch in left as part of a 1-2-3 third.
  • Valpo created a scoring chance with two on and nobody out in the fourth, but were unable to cash in.
  • The Beacons got on the board in the top of the fifth as Thurston ripped a home run to right.
  • A double on a ball lost in the lights led to an insurance run for SIU in the fifth as the Salukis scored on a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 6-1.
  • Thurston put a charge into one with the bases loaded in the sixth, but he settled for a sac fly to deep left on a ball that looked like it could be a grand slam off the bat. That run trimmed the deficit back to four at 6-2.
  • A nice play by Connor Giusti (Hoffman Estates, Ill. / Fremd [Wisconsin Oshkosh]) helped Valpo starter Connor Lockwood (Libertyville, Ill. / Libertyville) toss up a zero in the sixth, keeping it a 6-2 contest.
  • Lockwood was lifted after six innings in which he allowed six runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out four. He allowed just one run over his final four innings of work as the bulk of the damage came in the first two frames including the second-inning grand slam before he settled in.
  • Lefty Lucas Foley (Deer Park, Ill. / Lake Zurich) entered the game in the seventh. He worked in and out of trouble, wiggling free from a bases-loaded jam without yielding a run. He later posted a zero in the eighth to round out a strong relief appearance.
  • Valpo got one in the top of the eighth but had a golden chance for more as the Beacons had the bases loaded, but a strikeout on a 3-2 pitch ended the inning as Valpo stranded the tying run at first and go-ahead run at the plate.
  • Valpo made some noise once again in the ninth as a two-out double to deep center by Giusti cut the lead to two and brought the tying run to the plate, but once again the Salukis navigated the jam to nail down the win.  

Inside the Game

  • Thurston’s home run was his third of the season and his second in as many games after he left the yard in Tuesday’s win over Ball State. This marked the sixth home run of his four-year tenure with the Beacons.
  • Thurston’s three RBIs tied a season high as he previously had three on March 8 at The Citadel.
  • Giusti, Hannahs and Liam Patton (Barrington, Ill. / Warsaw [Wabash]) all enjoyed multi-hit games.
  • Hannahs extended his on-base streak to 20, while Carson Husmann (Hanna, Ind. / South Central [Bradley]) moved his hitting streak to 10. Hannahs secured Valpo’s first on-base streak of 20 or more since Ryan Maka’s 25-game streak last season, while Husmann’s hitting streak is the first 10-gamer by a Beacon since Maka hit safely in 13 straight a year ago.
  • Valpo has stranded 12 or more on base in seven of its last 10 games.
  • The Beacons owned a 9-8 advantage in the hit column, the team’s first loss this season when outhitting the opponent. The team was previously 5-0 in such contests.  
  • Freshman Kevin Denty (Tinley Park, Ill. / Marian Catholic) reached base three times including two walks, while Brady Renfro (Antigo, Wis. / Antigo) took three free passes.

Up Next

Valpo (8-12, 0-1 MVC) and SIU will do it again on Saturday afternoon as the middle game of the series gets underway at 2 p.m. in Carbondale. The game will air on ESPN+ with links to live coverage available on