Hilltoppers fall in day two against Valparaiso

WKU pitcher Jackson Gray (51) swings at a pitch during the game against the Bowling Green Falcons at Nick Denes Field on March 12. WKU won 4-3 in the 10th inning.

Wyatt Sparkman

WKU (9-9) hosted the Valparaiso Crusaders (4-8) for the second time in as many days on Saturday afternoon. The Hilltoppers lost 8-6.

“Tough one today, tough one today. We started off behind four nothing and our team responded very well,” head coach John Pawlowski said. “We put ourselves back in the ballgame and tied it up and had a chance, but just the miscues that we didn’t handle the baseball very well in that last inning.”  

Sophomore Matthew Meyer led the Hilltopper bats going 4-for-6 with three doubles and an RBI. 

“All of my hits today came with two strikes,” Meyer said. “It also helps when I’ve been seeing it pretty well so that helps as well.” 

For Valparaiso, redshirt senior Riley Dent batted 2-for-4 along with his first homerun of the season. 

Junior Sean Bergeron was awarded his fifth starting appearance on the mound for game two against Valpo. He went on to toss for five innings and struck out 10 Valpo batters. 

Junior Colin Fields got the nod to start for the visiting Crusaders. Fields tossed for five innings of work and struck out five Hilltopper batters. 

The Crusaders came out swinging in the first inning and picked up two base hits. Bergeron walked the third batter in Valpo’s order to load the bases with no out. Drudge scored two of his teammates on a double to claim a 2-0 lead. 

Valpo wasn’t done scoring in the first inning. Freshman Parker Johnson singled to left field, scoring two more Crusaders to take a 4-0 lead over the Hilltoppers.

Graduate Davis Sims hit a fly ball to centerfield to end the Hilltoppers’ first chance to cut into the Crusader lead. 

After both teams had nothing to show in the second inning, WKU got runners on third and second after two straight doubles from sophomores Matthew Meyer and Jackson Gray. 

Meyer then scored on a fielder’s choice to give WKU their first run of the game. The Hilltoppers did not add any more runs, leaving Gray stranded on third base. After three innings of play, Valparaiso led 4-1.  

In the fourth inning, Valparaiso went three up and three down. WKU got a runner on first base but could not score him. 

Valparaiso added another run in the top of the fifth inning when redshirt senior Damon Jorgensen hit an RBI single to extend their lead to 5-1. In the bottom of the fifth, senior Ray Zuberer III cut into the Crusader lead 5-2 with an RBI double to score Meyer.

WKU made a pitching change in the top of the sixth, going to sophomore Wil Moritz for Bergeron. Valparaiso went three up and three down. The Crusaders made a pitching change to start the bottom of the sixth frame going to Nathan Chasey for Lebamoff.     

The Hilltoppers knotted the game up in the bottom of the sixth inning courtesy of three runs scored. Meyer stayed perfect at this point in the contest, picking up his fourth hit and first RBI of the game, scoring freshman Ty Crittenberger. 

Moritz was relieved in the seventh inning for freshman Luke Stofel. Valparaiso reclaimed their lead when Dent smashed the ball to center field for a homerun. WKU did not retaliate going three up and three down to end the seventh inning.

Junior Dalton Shoemake came in for Stofel to start the eighth inning. After two Valparaiso runners got into scoring position, freshman Dalton Mesaris came in for Shoemake to stop the scoring opportunity. 

Redshirt senior Jon Tieman relieved Chasey to begin the bottom of the eighth inning. Sophomore Jackson Swiney led off the ninth inning with a double to right field. Swiney advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt, then he scored on a wild pitch to tie the game six apiece. 

Redshirt sophomore Mason Vinyard came in for Mesaris to start the ninth inning for WKU. The game went to extra’s after both teams left a runner stranded on base. 

In the top of the tenth frame, Valparaiso got the bats going, getting runners on first and second base with one out. Johnson grounded into a double play to the scoring opportunity. WKU left a runner stranded on second after a lead off single to end the tenth inning. 

“One of the biggest things is really coming out in the first few innings putting a zero in the defense column,” Meyer said. 

In the top of the eleventh frame, Valparaiso got runners on first and third base after two errors by WKU. Redshirt senior Steven Fitzsimmons gave Valpo the late lead off an RBI single. Valpo would add another run to extend their lead to 8-6.

WKU made two more pitching changes before landing on junior Ryan O’Connell. He struck out Jorgensen to end the top of the eleventh inning. WKU did not retaliate going three up and three down to end the game. Valparaiso won 8-6. 

“Give the credit to their pitchers. I thought their pitchers did an outstanding job again today and hitting is a very difficult thing when you go in the box you got to be ready to hit and I thought for the most part our hitters have continued to be ready to hit,” Pawlowski said.    

WKU concludes their weekend series against Valpo Sunday at 1 p.m. Junior Aristotle Peter will start Sunday for the Hilltoppers. 

Baseball beat reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Wyatt on Twitter at @WyattSparkman3