Late inning drama was nowhere to be found on Thursday at the Horizon League Baseball Championships hosted by UIC at Les Miller Field. All three games saw the winning team win by at least 10 runs as the winning teams combined to outscore the losing teams, 54-14.
Milwaukee won the first game of the day, 19-2, over Butler. UIC knocked off second-seed Wright State, 19-9 in the afternoon game, and in the night contest, top-seed Valparaiso defeated Youngstown State, 16-3.
UIC and Valparaiso are the only two teams left in the tournament to not suffer a loss and will face each other on Friday night at 8 p.m. CT. Third-seed Milwaukee and Wright State will get things started on Friday with a 10 a.m. meeting. The winner will play again at 3 p.m. against Youngstown State, while the loser will be eliminated from the tournament.
In the first game of the day, Milwaukee set a tournament team record with 27 hits in dispatching fifth-seed Butler, 19-2. The Panthers leftfielder, Jonathan Capasso tied a tournament record with six hits as he went 6-for-6, hitting four singles, one double and one home run. He also drove in four runs for UWM. Freshman Luke Meeteer was 5-for-6 at the plate and also drove in four runs for the Panthers. Overall, 10 different Panthers got a hit with five of those players getting at least three.
Milwaukee was up 2-0 heading into the bottom of the third when the Panthers broke it open with 10 runs to take a 12-0 lead. Butler’s Jimmy Risi would hit a solo home run in the top of the fourth for the Bulldogs only run, but Milwaukee would answer with two in the bottom of the inning and then added five more in the fifth to take a 19-1 lead after five innings. The Panthers would cruise the rest of the way in winning the game.
Horizon League First-Team All-League pitcher Cale Tassi got the win for Milwaukee after pitching five innings.
The loss eliminated Butler from the tournament.
A big third inning also was a factor in the second game of the day between fourth-seed UIC and second-seed Wright State. The Flames were leading 4-2 entering the top of the third inning when they exploded for nine more runs to take a 13-2 lead. The Raiders answered with five runs in the bottom half of the frame to get within six runs, 13-7, but they could never get any closer as UIC scored at least one run in five of the last six innings to keep WSU at bay.
The Flames were led by junior first baseman Alex Grunenwald who was 4-for-5 at the plate, hitting two home runs and one double in the game. He drove in five runs and scored four himself in the game. UIC hit five home runs in the game as Joe Betcher, Jon Ryan and Alex Jurich all homered. Every Flame batter got a hit as UIC finished with 23 for the game.
The Raiders were led by Corey Davis who hit a double and triple in the game, driving in two runs. Just like UIC, every WSU hitter in the lineup got a hit, but the Raiders were unable to string hits together in the same inning and it ultimately cost them as they were unable to keep up with the hot-hitting Flames.
In the final day of the game, Valparaiso broke open a close game with an eight-run fifth inning. The Crusaders were leading 2-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth before exploding for eight runs to effectively put the game out of reach for the Penguins. Valpo added five more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to increase their lead to 16-1. YSU scored two runs in the top of the ninth to make the final score, 16-3 in favor of Valparaiso.
All nine Valparaiso players in the starting lineup had an RBI in the game. First baseman John Loeffler was 3-for-5 in the game, driving in three runs. Spencer Mahoney walked three times and had a single and double in his trips to the plate and also finished with three RBIs.
Craig Goubeaux hit a home run for YSU to get them on the board in the third inning. It was the second home run in as many days for the catcher. Jason Shirley drove in YSU’s other two runs with a single in the ninth inning.
Thursday, May 24 Results
(3) Milwaukee 19, (5) Butler 2
(4) UIC 19, (2) Wright State 9
(1) Valparaiso 16, (6) Youngstown State 3
Friday, May 25 Schedule
10 a.m. CT – (3) Milwaukee vs. (2) Wright State
3 p.m. CT – Winner of UWM/WSU vs. (6) Youngstown State
8 p.m. CT – (4) UIC vs. (1) Valparaiso