UIC scored three runs in the top of the first and never trailed as they defeated top-seed Valparaiso 4-3 Saturday at Les Miller Field in Chicago to force a championship game on Sunday.
The Crusaders had defeated UIC 4-3 on Friday night and if they had won Saturday’s game, Valparaiso would have won its first Horizon League Baseball Championship since joining the conference in 2008.
Sunday’s championship game will begin at 12 p.m. CT. The winner will receive the Horizon League’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Alex Jurich broke a 3-3 tie with a two-out RBI single in the eighth inning to score what turned out to be the game winning run. Joe Betcher started the inning with a double and after a sac bunt, stood on third base with one out. Jon Ryan was then hit by a pitch to give the Flames runners on the corner. The Crusaders almost kept the winning run from scoring as Alex Lee grounded out to first baseman John Loeffler who threw home in time to nab Betcher for the second out of the inning. Jurich though singled cleanly through the leftside of the infield to score Ryan from second base and give the Flames a lead they would never relinquish.
The Flames got rolling early as they scored three runs in the top of the first. Leadoff batter Jacob McNamara walked to get on-base and one batter later Betcher put UIC on-top with a two-run home run over the leftfield wall. The Flames next batter, Alex Grunenwald, doubled and then scored on a ground ball when Valparaiso shortstop Spencer Mahoney threw over the head of the first baseman.
The Crusaders though quickly put the top of the first inning behind them as they slowly cut into the Flames lead. Valparaiso scored one run in the bottom of the first when John Loeffler doubled down the right field line to score Chris Manning. They added their second run in the fifth inning when Chris Manning hit an RBI single to score Tanner Vavra who had opened up the inning with a double.
Valpo tied the score in the bottom of the seventh when Loeffler grounded out to the second baseman to score Andrew Bain.
The Flames though answered Valparaiso’s score in the next inning to get the win.
Mike Schoolcraft started his first game of the season for UIC and went 4.2 innings, allowing only two earned runs. Chris Hoffman pitched the final three innings for the Flames and was credited with the win after allowing just one hit.
Horizon League Co-Newcomer of the Year Kyle Wormington took the loss for the Crusaders. Wormington went 7.1 innings, giving up six hits and four runs (three earned).
The Flames got to the championship round by defeating Youngstown State 5-0 in the first game on Saturday.
Tags: UIC - Baseball · Valparaiso - Baseball