(2) Kentucky 8, (4) Valparaiso 1
GARY, Ind. -- Valparaiso’s first NCAA Tournament trip since 1968 came to an end on Saturday afternoon at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind., falling 8-1 to #11 Kentucky.
With the loss, the Crusaders end the season with a record of 35-25, tying a school mark for victories in a season. Valpo was the Horizon League regular season and tournament champions, and ended a 44-year drought by returning to the NCAA Tournament.
“I am so proud of this group of guys,” head coachTracy Woodson said after the game. “They have helped to bring Valpo baseball back to where we want it to be.”
The game was a pitcher’s duel for five innings before the Wildcats broke the game open with five runs in the top of the sixth inning.
Kentucky had the game’s first scoring opportunity, putting a runner at third with two outs in the second inning. Zac Zellers, who drew a one-out walk, moved around the base paths on a stolen base and a wild pitch, but was stranded 90 feet away as Kevin Wild (Brown Deer, Wis./Brown Deer H.S.) induced a flyout from Paul McConkey to end the inning.
The Crusaders had base runners in each of the first two innings, including a base hit by John Loeffler(Burnsville, Minn./Burnsville H.S.) in the second, but double play groundballs ended both innings. Loeffler’s single extended his hitting streak to 12 straight games and his on base streak to 35 consecutive games.
Valpo put two runners aboard for the first time in the third as Spencer Mahoney (LaGrange Park, Ill./Lyons Township H.S.) was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and moved to second on a two-out single by Andrew Bain (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor H.S.). Kentucky hurler Jerad Grundy worked out of the jam with a flyout to end the frame and keep the game scoreless.
Wild again pitched out of trouble in the Kentucky half of the fourth, as back-to-back one-out singles by Michael Williams and Cameron Flynn put the Wildcats in business. Runners moved to second and third with two outs, but Wild got J.T Riddle to ground out to Loeffler to keep the tournament’s second seed off of the scoreboard.
Kentucky finally broke through in the top of the fifth. McConkey led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on Austin Cousino’s one-out single through the right side.
It did not take long for Valpo to tie the game, as three straight two-out singles in the bottom of the fifth evened the game at one. Steven Scoby (Delton, Mich./Delton Kellogg H.S.) started the rally with a hit through the right side. Bain followed with a hit through the hole on the left side, putting two men aboard before Tanner Vavra (Menomonie, Wis./Menomonie H.S.) came through with a RBI single into left-center, tying the game at one.
The Wildcats broke the game open in the sixth with five two-out runs. Zellers started the rally with a two-out single into center and scored as Riddle doubled down the rightfield line on a hit-and-run. After a walk to McConkey, Matt Reida made it 3-1 Kentucky with a single into right. Cousino followed with a double off of the wall at the 400-foot mark in straightaway center, plating two, and eventually scored on a double steal of home plate, making it 6-1 Wildcats.
“That one inning put it away,” Woodson added. “We were awful about giving up two-out runs this weekend. You can’t allow that. You have to bear down and get guys out.”
An unearned run in the eighth increased the Kentucky lead to 7-1 as Reida’s infield single scored Riddle from second base. The Wildcats scored one final run in the eighth as Williams reached on a Crusader error, scoring Thomas McCarthy, who led off the inning with a double. Valpo had three more errors total on Saturday after committing five in the opener on Friday night against #15 Purdue.
“This was not characteristic of how we played defense this year,” Woodson stated. “We did not play well defensively in the tournament.”
Valpo had one last threat to score in the bottom of the ninth as Mahoney led off with a double to left-center and moved to third with one out, but a flyout and strikeout ended the season for the Brown and Gold.
Bain finished the game 3-for-4, his team-leading 27th multi-hit game of the season and the eighth time this season he had at least three hits in a contest. Valpo managed just seven hits on the afternoon.
Cousino went 3-for-5 with three runs batted in to pace Kentucky (44-17) while Reida had two hits and two RBIs. The Wildcats finished the night with 12 total hits.
Grundy picked up the win (6-3) for the Wildcats, allowing just the one run on five hits in six innings of work. He walked four and struck out six. Wild suffered the loss (6-4) for the Crusaders, giving up six runs, five of which were earned, and 10 hits in 5.2 innings on the hill. He walked two and struck out three.
“We feel like we can play with the big boys,” Woodson concluded. “Our pitching the last couple of years has been outstanding, and we have added some of the other necessary parts, like securing our middle infield. We have some guys coming in that will make a difference as well. We are excited at where we are. This is not a one-year wonder. We have a lot of talent coming back.”
(1) Purdue 7, (4) Valparaiso 2
GARY, Ind. -- Valparaiso scored first and last on Friday evening into Saturday morning, but Purdue scored seven times in between as the 15th-ranked Boilermakers defeated the Crusaders 7-2 at U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind. in the opening game of the NCAA Regionals in front of 5,047 fans.
Making its first appearance in the NCAA Division I Tournament appearance since 1968, the 7 p.m. start time was delayed until after 10:30 due to the length of the opener at U.S. Steel Yard, and lasted until nearly 1 a.m. Central time on Saturday morning.
“There is nothing you can really do but wait,” head coach Tracy Woodson said of the wait after the game. “It is the same advantage or disadvantage for both teams. I don’t think it was a factor in the game at all.”
Errors proved to be the Crusaders downfall on the evening though, as the Brown and Gold committed a season-high five miscues which led to six unearned Purdue runs.
“We didn’t play well tonight, and that’s what is disappointing,” Woodson added. “We were excited about being here and people asked about our strengths coming in. It has been pitching and defense. (Tyler) Deetjen did what he’s done all year but errors killed us. The six unearned runs were the difference in the game.”
Valpo had a scoring opportunity from the opening batter of the game, as Andrew Bain (Indianapolis, Ind./Park Tudor H.S.) laced a lead-off single to left and moved to second as a pickoff attempt went into the stands. The Crusaders failed to convert though as Boilermaker starter Joe Haase recorded back-to-back strikeouts and a flyout to quickly end the threat.
After Tyler Deetjen (Saint Charles, Ill./East H.S.) retired the Purdue side in order in the first and Valpo went down 1-2-3 in the second, the Boilermakers threatened in their half of the second. Ryan Bridges singled up the middle with one out and moved to third while David Miller took second on a two-out throwing error. Deetjen induced a ground out off of the bat of Brandon Krieg to end the threat though, stranding the two runners in scoring position.
The Crusaders struck first in the top of the third inning as Billy Cribbs (Rochester, Mich./Rochester H.S.) lined a double off the top of the wall in left to start the frame and moved to third on Steven Scoby’s (Delton, Mich./Delton Kellogg H.S.) sacrifice bunt. Bain then flared a single over the drawn in infield into right-center to plate Cribbs and give Valpo the early 1-0 lead.
Purdue answered with a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the inning. Cameron Perkins singled with two outs and Kevin Plawecki kept the inning alive reaching on a throwing error. Barrett Serrato followed with a two-run double to the gap in left-center, putting the Boilermakers on top.
Valpo looked to answer in the fourth putting runners on second and third with just one out. Will Hagel (Arlington Heights, Ill./Prospect H.S.) led off with a single, moved to second when John Loeffler (Burnsville, Minn./Burnsville H.S.) walked, and both runners moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Elliott Martin (Irvine, Calif./University H.S.). A pop out and ground out ended the threat though.
Another unearned run in the Purdue half of the fourth inning allowed the Boilermakers to increase their lead to two. Stephen Talbott lined a shot off of Deetjen with runners on first and second and two outs which he fielded. The throw though was into the runner, and allowed Krieg to come around from second to score.
The Crusaders looked to fight back in the top of the sixth as Hagel reached on an error and Loeffler followed with a single, putting runners on the corners with none out. However, Haase recorded back-to-back strikeouts and a lineout to escape the jam unharmed.
The Boilermakers then added to the lead in the sixth with two more unearned runs. Cameron Perkins’ two out single to left scored David Miller, who reached on an error, as well as Andrew Dixon, giving Purdue a 5-1 advantage.
“The grass was soaking wet the entire game and I knew it was going to be a factor,” stated Woodson. “We made more mistakes and they made more plays.”
An infield single by Sean McHugh in the bottom of the seventh plated Serrato, who doubled with one out in the inning. David Miller followed with a RBI single up the middle, making it 7-1 Purdue.
Valpo found the scoreboard against in the eighth as Loeffler doubled with one out and scored on a two-out single into left-center by Cribbs.
Cribbs finished the game with a pair of hits, as did Loeffler and Bain, all part of Valpo’s nine-hit attack on the evening. Purdue tallied 11 hits on the night, with Perkins and Serrato each driving home two runs.
The Crusaders had the leadoff man aboard in five of the nine innings, but left 11 runners on base total for the night, including six in scoring position.
Haase earned the win (11-1) for Purdue (45-12), allowing one run and six hits in seven innings of work while striking out seven. Deetjen suffered the loss, despite allowing just one earned run. He went 6.2 innings, surrendering the seven runs on 11 hits. He fanned five and did not walk anyone.
“We have to be ready to go,” Woodson concluded of the short turnaround before playing again later on Saturday. “We’ve had our backs against the wall a couple of times this year. I’m not worried about how we’ll come out. We’ll be ready to go.”
Valparaiso (35-24) will face #11 Kentucky on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. at U.S. Steel Yard in an elimination game after the Wildcats fell 7-6 to Kent State in Saturday’s opening game. The game lasted 21 innings, the second longest in NCAA Tournament play. The game can be heard live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at valpoathletics.com. The Crusaders and Wildcats have never met on the baseball diamond.
Game Notes: The game started 3 hours, 32 minutes late due to the length of the Kentucky-Kent State game which proceeded it … the game, which was televised live on the Big Ten Network, was the first time a Valpo baseball game was broadcast on national television … Purdue leads the all-time series 64-18 and has won five straight games between the two schools … Valpo is now 2-11 all-time in the regionals … Loeffler extended his on base streak to 34 consecutive games with his 31st walk of the season in the fourth inning … Loeffler also singled in the sixth to extend his hitting streak to 11 straight games … Tanner Vavra (Menomonie, Wis./Menomonie H.S.) was hit by a pitch in the fifth inning for the 22nd time this season, setting a new school record which was previously held by Eric Snyder in 2003 … Bain had two hits and now has 80 on the year, fifth most in a single season in Crusader history … Deetjen now has thrown a school record 121.1 innings this season … Deetjen has 311.1 career innings, third most in school history.
(Release courtesy of Ryan Wronkowicz, Valparaiso Athletics)
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