Baseball downs Valparaiso Crusaders

By Brian Earle

Baseball won its second consecutive midweek game, defeating Valparaiso, 10-6, on the road Wednesday in come-from-behind fashion.

The Huskies (5-19-1) held a 4-2 lead going into the bottom of the fifth inning after infielder Alex Klonowski doubled down the right field line to drive in outfielder Brandon Mallder from second in the top half of the fifth.

In the bottom half of the fifth inning, the Crusaders (9-13) capitalized on numerous miscues by the Huskies on the mound. After getting the first two batters of the inning out, pitcher Justin Ruckman walked three straight batters to load the bases.

With the bases loaded, Ruckman hit catcher Ray Bartolomucci to bring in one run. While facing right fielder JP Paciocco, Ruckman threw a wild pitch, which allowed second baseman Andy Burns to score from third base, tying the game, 4-4.

After Ruckman walked the next batter to again load the bases, Ruckman was replaced with Kevin Sweeney. Sweeney picked up right where Ruckman left off, throwing a wild pitch, allowing first baseman Andrew Bynum to score from third base.

Sweeney ended up walking third baseman Spencer Mahoney to load the bases for the third time in the inning. The next batter, shortstop Jeff Edwards, singled to left field to drive in Bartolomucci from third base, while Paciocco was gunned out at the plate by left fielder Matt Williams.

“It was the pitcher’s inabilities to throw strikes,” said coach Ed Mathey. “It was kind of the theme today. They went through a lot of base runners, a lot of high-stress situations for us… . Those are the things that kind of got us in trouble. Fortunately for us, Valpo wasn’t able to get the hits with the guys on base.”

The Huskies didn’t throw in the towel as they got a run back in the top of the sixth inning. With right fielder Alex Smith on second base and third baseman Carl Russell on first base with no outs, catcher Tommy Hook executed a sacrifice bunt to move the runners over to second and third with one out.

Second baseman Justin Fletcher drove in Smith from third base on a sacrifice fly to center field to make the score 6-5.

The Huskies went back to work in the top of the seventh inning when they rallied for three runs with two outs.

“That was huge,” Mathey said. “That was a great inning right there. That might be one of our best innings at the plate offensively, just because it was late in the ballgame and we had two guys out and we battled back to take the lead.”

Williams recorded a single with two outs and advanced to second base on the right fielder.

Center fielder Connor Schomig followed that up with a double to right center to drive in Williams from second and tie the game, 6-6.

Smith reached base after being hit by another pitch, and Russell followed that up with a single to right field, which drove in Schomig from second and moved Smith up to third base.

After a pitching change, the Huskies executed a double steal where Russell stole second and Smith stole home to put the Huskies up 8-6.

The Huskies’ bullpen shut the Crusaders down in the final four innings, not allowing a single run, while the Huskies added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth inning when Smith doubled to left center, driving in Schomig and Klonowski.

The Huskies recorded 13 hits in the game and had four players record multi-hit games. Russell led the way with three hits, but most of the damage was done by the bottom half of the Huskies’ order, as Klonowski, Schomig and Smith all recorded two hits in the 10-6 victory.